London’s Charterhouse, which land was first used in 1348 as a place to bury victims of the Black Death before the land was granted for a monastery in 1371, opened its doors for the first time in 400 years in February this year. It is in the London Borough of Islington. It is open 6 days a week.
Visitors can now walk across the graves of thousands of Londoners. Up to 55,000 are said to have been buried here. Thomas More came to this place and 25 monks lived there. The monastery was closed in 1537 due to the reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries at that time. In 1538 the monks at Charterhouse voted not to recognize Henry Vlll as the head of the church. The Prior was hanged and drawn and quartered at Tyburn prison, 10 monks were taken to Newgate prison – 9 of whom started to death and the tenth was executed. They are known as the Carthusian Martyrs.
Henry Vlll is said to have stored hunting equipment here and a family of instrument makers was said to have lived here. Then in 1545 the entire site was bought by Sir Edward North who made it into a mansion house. Queen Elizabeth 1 is said to have used the house during preparations for her coronation.
The property to as purchased by Thomas Howard following Edward’s death. He was imprisoned for a time at the Tower of London and then placed under house arrest at the Charterhouse for scheming to marry Mary Queen of Sots. He built a long terrace (still there and known as the Norfolk Cloister) before being exposed as being involved in the Ridolfi plot for which he was executed.
In 1622 Sir Thomas Sutton endowed a hospital on the site and in his will he left money to maintain a chapel, almshouse and school. It was a charity for 60 poor men and 40 poor scholars. The school was attended by John Wesley and the writer William Makepeace Thackeray. In 1872 the school moved to Godalming, Surrey. It is still called Charterhouse School.
Visitors can visit the museum and the chapel which holds the founder’s grand tomb. There is a new visitor’s entrance, designed by the architects Eric Parry, which takes one through a gate and over the foundations of the medieval monastery and the graves of the monks and then through a gap in the buildings ripped by a bomb in the blitz.
One of the victims of the Black death was recently excavated when the ongoing Crossrail project caught part of the Charterhouse square. This body lies in a glass case in the museum. There is also a case curated by the brothers that gives insight into their daily lives.
This project was funded by the Heritage lottery fund.