Sir Lawrence Tanfield (c.1551-1625) was a prominent lawyer and politician who established a country seat at Burford in the 1580s.
Having bought an estate there in 1583, he soon after built Burford Priory on the site of the dissolved medieval hospital.
He subsequently rose to become Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and from 1617 was lord of Burford manor.
Relations with the townspeople were not good, however, and in the 1620s he was involved in a series of acrimonious disputes with the corporation over town administration. He and his wife Elizabeth's reputation for rapaciousness remained embedded in Burford folklore into modern times.
Probably born in Huntingdonshire, Tanfield was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1569. In 1584 he became MP for New Woodstock, and in 1604 he was returned for the county of Oxford and knighted by James I. The king had earlier stayed at Burford Priory as Tanfield’s guest, during his royal progress to London in September 1603. Tanfield became Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1607, and remained so for the rest of his life.
As a lawyer he enjoyed a good reputation and amassed considerable wealth. There were, however, accusations of corruption and overbearingness.
He died at Burford on 30 April 1625 and was buried in Burford church, under the elaborate tomb in the north chapel. Lady Elizabeth took over the space in
the church without leave and had the monument built.
She died in 1629 aged about 70, and in her will left a house in Sheep street, and appointed trustees to use profits from the property for the upkeep of the tomb,
and for distribution of alms to six poor widows every Christmas.
Most of the monument is made of Derbyshire alabaster, with columns of black marble from southern Italy. The lower part is of Purbeck marble.
At the head of the bed kneels the Tanfield's only child Elizabeth, and at the foot of the tomb is Lucius Cary, Elizabeth's son (1610-1643. Elizabeth was born about 1585 and received a good education. She married Sir Henry Cary in 1602, by whom she had 11 children. In 1626 she converted to Catholicism, which estranged her from both her father and her husband.
She went on to be a writer, and was the first Englishwoman to publish a play. She died in 1639.
Lucius Cary inherited the Tanfield estates at Burford and Great Tew, where he built up a fine library. His wife Lettice bore him 4 sons, one of which was 5th Lord Falkland - the Falkland Isles are named after him. Lucius died in the Battle of Newbury in 1643
See other images of The Tanfield tomb, Burford Church