Take A Tour Of Charterhouse

M@
By M@ Last edited 48 months ago
Take A Tour Of Charterhouse

The Charterhouse is something of an enigma. Its Tudor and later buildings occupy a sizeable piece of land in the heart of Clerkenwell, yet few people ever get to see inside. Until 30 November, the historic complex is allowing visitors in, for free, to view an exhibition of philanthropy. But you can also use the opportunity to take a tour of some of the more impressive buildings.

Originally founded as a monastery in the 14th century, the Charterhouse has survived the centuries as a private home, a school and as almshouses. The school moved to Godalming 150 years ago, but its role as a home for retired men continues to this day, one of the reasons it only occasionally opens its doors to the public.

The exhibition, and an accompanying book, takes a look at the history and future of philanthropy in London — a story The Charterhouse is well placed to tell, given that both its school and almshouses were originally set up at the bequest of Thomas Sutton, on his death in 1611. There's plenty of interesting material here, although it comes mostly in the form of information panels, with few tangible objects.

The tour is spellbinding, however. The complex contains many architectural wonders, with buildings from Tudor times up to a modern accommodation block built by the same architect as Portcullis House. You'll discover ancient tapestries, the Queen's mulberry tree, and — bizarrely — the passage in which the offside rules for football were first tried.


Click through the gallery below for more previews (and apologies for the low light...we picked the greyest, wettest day of the year for our tour).

Master's Court, built in 1546, resembles an Oxbridge quad.  The main building is the Great Hall, whose roof was destroyed in the Second World War.
Master's Court, built in 1546, resembles an Oxbridge quad. The main building is the Great Hall, whose roof was destroyed in the Second World War.
Thomas Sutton's tomb in the chapel.
Thomas Sutton's tomb in the chapel.
A close up of Sutton's tomb. And, yes, the dude centre-left really is blowing bubbles.
A close up of Sutton's tomb. And, yes, the dude centre-left really is blowing bubbles.
The Queen's mulberry tree. Each year, the monarch gets first dibs on the fruit of this tree. She doesn't pick it herself, however.
The Queen's mulberry tree. Each year, the monarch gets first dibs on the fruit of this tree. She doesn't pick it herself, however.
Wash-house Court, dating from Tudor times, remains the site of Charterhouse's laundry.
Wash-house Court, dating from Tudor times, remains the site of Charterhouse's laundry.
Inside the Great Chamber, from 1546, but heavily restored. James I and VI held court in this room when he first came to London.
Inside the Great Chamber, from 1546, but heavily restored. James I and VI held court in this room when he first came to London.
The Norfolk Cloister, said to be the space where a version of football's offside rule was first formulated.
The Norfolk Cloister, said to be the space where a version of football's offside rule was first formulated.
Inside the Great Hall, used as a refectory for the Brothers who live at Charterhouse.
Inside the Great Hall, used as a refectory for the Brothers who live at Charterhouse.
One of the oldest survivals at Charterhouse is this monk's cell entrance from 1371. It's located in the Norfolk Cloister.
One of the oldest survivals at Charterhouse is this monk's cell entrance from 1371. It's located in the Norfolk Cloister.

Charterhouse is gearing up for more extensive public opening next year, but for now, the exhibition and tour are an excellent opportunity to discover some of London's hidden histories.

Philanthropy: The City Story runs at Charterhouse until 30 November, Wed-Sun, 12-5.30pm. Entrance is free (just turn up), and two free talks about philanthropy are programmed. Tours take place at 3pm on Thur-Sun at 3pm. These must be booked on the day, and cost £10.

Last Updated 13 November 2013

Laura Porter

I sent an email to them to try and join a tour of Charterhouse weeks ago but no reply (except 'we're busy' auto reply). I'll have to make do with enjoying your pics. Thanks for sharing.

whiskytime

I toured this area 14 years ago while on a "London walks" tour. (exteriors of course). It is a fantastically rich architectural and historic treasure. I can't wait to get back to see the interiors!

Liani

I worked there years ago when I first moved to London. During my time there I met Prince Charles & got to know the brothers really well. I have quite a lot of photos which I took during my time there which I will be happy to share with anyone interested. It was probably one of the most interesting & memorable places I have ever worked.