Earlier this year the Historic Houses Group visited Charterhouse in London. Walking around Charterhouse Square, it’s difficult to believe that this was once (14thC) a ‘plague pit’. A Carthusian Monastery was founded here in 1348, only to be closed again in 1537, after the Reformation. It was later used for a time as a grand mansion; Queen Elizabeth 1 stayed here.
A philanthropist, Sir Thomas Sutton, then purchased the building. He endowed the school for 40 boys of poor parentage and an Alms house for 80 male Pensioners, ”gentlemen by descent and in poverty, soldiers that have bore arms on land and at sea, merchants decayed piracy, shipwreck or other calamity, or servants to the Household to the Sovereign”.
The only surviving Tudor House in London, it is home now to around 40 retired gentlemen. The first ‘lady Brother’ was due to be welcomed the day following our visit; the Master is also female!
The Brothers take turns; thrice weekly they show visitors round the spotlessly clean institution – very much a reminder too of the hierarchical system, which continues to thrive in the Public School, Charterhouse, now near Godalming in Surrey.We were fortunate to be shown buildings open to the Public by a Brother who used to be Curator of the Museum at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The surrounding buildings that belong to The Charterhouse are let out as accommodation; a considerable income is raised which is put to good use within the Foundation.