ROBYN Grant and James Swanton first met when working below stairs at the York Dungeon.

"We discovered we had an appetite for the same kind of theatre, and so Robyn and I have been keen to work with each other for quite a few years," says James, who has a naturally Gothic air with his dark hair, long fingers, thin lips and 6ft 2inch lanky frame. "Rather than waiting for the right thing to come along, we thought we should hatch our own project."

Consequently, he and the rather shorter Robyn, now on a Christmas break from her drama studies at East 15 Acting School, are to present ghost stories in their Winter Gothic show St Martin-Cum-Gregory Church, Micklegate, York, from Tuesday to December 29.

"The idea for the show came from Robyn pointing out that there is almost an absence of any theatre other than pantomimes in York at Christmas," says James, who now slips back and forth between York and London but still makes guest appearances at York Dungeon as assorted poltergeists and monsters.

"Most of the theatre I do is in London and in fact Winter Gothic will be the first York show I've done in nearly three years, which is a source of melancholy to me, as I see York as my proper home."

Setting the scene for their spooky storytelling nights, Robyn says: "Christmas Eve in Victorian York. A séance is taking place. The snow falls thick, a gruesome murder waits to be solved, and ever-approaching silver bells ring out through the night.

"This December, join us for an evening of chilling tales, sheltered in the medieval shadows of St Martin-cum-Gregory’s Church. There’s no better time to celebrate the world’s most haunted city. It’s a tradition to tell ghost stories around the fire at Christmas time, but are you brave enough to hear ours?"

Winter Gothic emerged from a shared desire to create an "intimate, story-telling, site-specific piece of theatre that could only be done in York," says James, a character actor whose one-man play Sikes And Nancy kept him busy in the West End this time last year.

"St Martin-cum-Gregory's Church is a completely dazzling location for theatre shows but is underused. I saw Richard II there earlier this year and was blown away by this gem among York churches. It's a bit Tardis-like as you're not expecting it to be so spectacular from the outside. To have this wonderful building to work in in Britain's most haunted city is a fantastic opportunity."

James describes the Winter Gothic performance style as "rich theatre by little means". "It's theatre where it's whatever the audience brings to it," he says.

The work is a devised piece by James and Robyn, with shades of M R James and Edgar Allan Poe, "but we're also drawn to things that are more obscure". "There was a murderous Knaresborough schoolmaster, Eugene Aram, in the late 17th century I think, who was once as famous as Dick Turpin but history has since buried him. However, he's the subject of a wonderful ballad, The Dream Of Eugene Aram, written by Thomas Hood, who has rather fallen into obscurity too," says James.

"It was once an incredibly popular recitation piece in Victorian times but sort of dropped off the radar in the 20th century, but it was a particular favourite of Henry Irving – and I'm very obsessed with Henry Irving [the great English actor of the Vicorian age]. There was no-one better for delivering melodrama."

Irving would also perform a piece called The Bells for 30 years. "The script for The Bells is preposterous but we've seized upon its spirit and ideas, and that's become the framing narrative for feeding three ghost stories into Winter Gothic, each involving a murder," says James, who will play a magistrate opposite Robyn's role as a medium.

Winter Gothic will be performed at St Martin-cum-Gregory, York at 8pm on December 22, 23, 28 and 29; 6pm on December 24 and 6pm; 8.30pm, Boxing Day and December 27, with no show on Christmas Day. Tickets cost £10, concessions £8, online at