Charterhouse Square, EC1M

Place Name

Charterhouse comes from an Anglicisation of Chartreuse, from the Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the Carthusians in Burgundy, France. The Carthusians were such an austere bunch, that the spread of their order to England was very slow. Sometime around 1348, Sir Walter de Manny, one of Edward III’s bravest knights, bought 13 acres adjoining Pardon Churchyard and gave it to the city as a burial ground for victims of the Black Death. Twenty-two years later Manny founded a Carthusian monastery on the site. To head it, he invited John Luscote, a Carthusian from Hinton, Somerset, and seven monks to move into temporary buildings, and by 1371 the House of the Salutation of the Mother of God, otherwise known as Charterhouse, received its foundation charter. A cell consisted of a two-storey house which stood in its own garden. Each had a workroom, oratory, bedroom, living room and wood store. As for the monks themselves, they lived largely solitary lives, sleeping and eating alone except on Sundays and feast days when they went to the refectory. Conversation was limited to the three hour walk they were permitted to enjoy outside the monastery. They had no personal possessions and were not allowed to eat meat. In 1372 Manny died and was buried in the chapel before the high altar. His funeral was attended by Edward III. It was first mentioned as Le Charthous next Smythfield in 1375. The Monastery was sold in 1611 to Thomas Sutton for use as a school and almshouse. The school was moved to Godalming in Surrey in 1872, but the almsmen, known as The Brothers, remained. The buildings were badly damaged in the Second World War, and sensitively restored by Seely and Paget, revealing a magnificent series of historic interiors including the Great Hall, with its carved wooden screen, the Great Chamber, and the chapel which used to be the 14thCentury Chapter House, containing an interesting collection of funerary movements including the founder’s tomb. Its function today remains the same as in 1611, to house a community of almsmen in the heart of the City.

 

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