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).