London Charterhouse is a historic complex of
buildings in Smithfield,
London dating back to the 14th century.
occupies land to the north of Charterhouse Square.
The Charterhouse in 1770.
The Charterhouse began as (and takes its
name from) a Carthusian priory
, founded in 1371 and dissolved in 1537.
Substantial fragments remain from this monastic period, but the
site was largely rebuilt after 1545 as a large courtyard house
. Thus, today it "conveys a
vivid impression of the type of large rambling 16th century mansion
that once existed all round London" (The Buildings of England
Charterhouse was further altered and extended after 1611, when it
became an almshouse
, endowed by Thomas
. The almshouse (a home for gentleman pensioners) still
occupies the site today under the name Sutton's Hospital in
In 1348, Walter de Manny
land in Spital Croft
, north of Long Lane, from the Master
and Brethren of St. Bartholomew's Hospital for a graveyard and
plague pit for victims of the Black
. A chapel and hermitage were constructed, renamed New
; but in 1371, this land was granted for the
foundation of the London Charterhouse, a Carthusian
The twenty-five monks each had their own small building and garden.
came to the monastery for
spiritual recuperation. The name is derived as an Anglicisation of
La Grande Chartreuse
, whose order founded the
The monastery was closed in 1537, in the Dissolution of the
in the English
. As it resisted dissolution the monastery was
treated harshly: the Prior, John Houghton was hanged, drawn and quartered at
Tyburn and ten
monks were taken to the nearby Newgate Prison; nine of these men starved to death and the tenth
was executed three years later at Tower Hill.
They constitute the group known as the
For several years after the dissolution of the priory, members of
family of instrument
makers were amongst the tenants of the former monks' cells, whilst
Henry VIII stored hunting equipment in the church. But, in 1545,
the entire site was bought by Sir Edward North
1496-1564), who transformed the complex into a luxurious mansion
house. North demolished the church and built the Great Hall and
adjoining Great Chamber. In 1558, during North's occupancy,
Queen Elizabeth I
used the house
during the preparations for her coronation
Following North's death, the property was purchased by Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of
, who renamed it Howard House
following his imprisonment in the Tower of London for scheming to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, Norfolk was
placed under house arrest at the Charterhouse.
his time by embellishing the house, and built a long terrace in the
garden (which survives as the "Norfolk Cloister") leading to a
tennis court. In 1571, Norfolk's involvement in the Ridolfi plot
was exposed after a ciphered
letter from Mary, Queen of Scots was discovered under a doormat in
the house; he was executed the following year..
The property passed to Norfolk's son, Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of
. During his occupancy, James I
held court there on his first
entrance into London in 1603.
View from Charterhouse Square
Almshouse and School
1611 it came into those of Thomas
Sutton (1532-1611) of Snaith, Lincolnshire. He acquired a fortune by the discovery of
coal on two estates which he had leased near
Newcastle-on-Tyne, and afterwards, removing to London, he carried on
a commercial career.
In the year of his death, which took
place on the 12 December 1611
, he endowed a hospital on the site of the
Charterhouse, calling it the hospital of King James; and in his
will he bequeathed moneys to maintain a chapel, hospital (almshouse
) and school. The will was hotly
contested but upheld in court, and the foundation was finally
constituted to afford a home for eighty male pensioners (gentlemen
by descent and in poverty, soldiers that have borne arms by sea or
land, merchants decayed by piracy or shipwreck, or servants in
household to the King or Queens Majesty), and to educate forty
Charterhouse early established a reputation for excellence in
hospital care and treatment, thanks in part to Henry Levett
, M.D., an Oxford graduate who
joined the school as physician in 1712. Levett was widely esteemed
for his medical writings, including an early tract on the treatment
of smallpox. Levett was buried in Charterhouse Chapel, and his
widow remarried Andrew Tooke
master of Charterhouse.
School, developed beyond the original intentions of its
founder, and now ranks among the most eminent public schools in
In 1872 it was removed, during the headmastership
(1863-1897) of the Rev. William Haig-Brown (d. 1907), to new
buildings near Godalming in Surrey, which were
opened on the 18 June in that year.
Since then, the Fourths (students in their first year) visit the
Old Charterhouse (two classes per Quarter) as part of their
introduction to the school.
The buildings were damaged in the Blitz
but were carefully restored during the 1950s so that some medieval
and much 16th and 17th century fabric
remains. Charterhouse School moved out in 1872, being
replaced (till 1933) by the Merchant
Taylors' School, but Charterhouse is still home to senior (male)
citizens. The school buildings on the site of the
former monastic cloister eventually became the home of the St
Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School, and remain (though now much
redeveloped) one of the sites of its successor, Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School
of Medicine and Dentistry.
The main part of the cloister garth
continues to be a pleasant lawn in the quadrangle of the university
The main function of the Charterhouse today, which has an annual
income in excess of £3 million, is now as a home to 40 male
pensioners, known as Brothers. The best known of recent residents
was Simon Raven
, the novelist.
Charterhouse is a private residence, but is open for pre-booked
guided tours (see website); and the chapel can be viewed as part of
London Open House
nearest tube is Barbican but Farringdon tube and surface rail station is also
Charterhouse was traditionally considered an extra-parochial area
became a separate civil parish
own right. In 1899 it was incorporated into the
Metropolitan Borough of
Finsbury, and since 1965 has been part of the London
Borough of Islington.