Great visit, dark undertones. Wonderful stories and history and so embedded in modern day London that we nearly walked on by.
A fascinating part of Medieval London
London’s Charterhouse is a former 14th-century Carthusian monastery and burial ground for victims of the Black Death, which opened its doors to the public for the first time in 400 years in 2017. Visitors can walk across the graves of thousands of Londoners and enter this medieval charity that is based a stone's throw from Smithfield Market in the City of London.
A new museum and the chapel, which holds the founder’s grand tomb is open 6 days a week. During an excavation when the 'Crossrail' project caught the corner of Charterhouse Square 13 bodies were revealed and one of them now lies in a glass case in the museum lit by electric candles. Apparently up to 55,000 Londoners are said to have been buried here.
The charity provided homes for 60 poor men and 40 poor scholars when it was originally opened in 1611, through the will of Sir Thomas Sutton, who had made his fortune in guns and coal. The school (of the same name) and whose past pupils include John Wesley and the writer William Makepeace Thackeray, was moved to Surrey in 1872.
Today the complex of almshouses, preserved among tower blocks, is surrounded by gardens and cobbled courtyards and still provide homes for life to 40 men, known as brothers. Women are now able to apply as well and a female ‘master’ took over the helm in 2017.
Anyone applying to be a brother (or sister) must be over 60, poor and single, and thus in need of the support of a community for the rest of their lives. There are now more retired priests, vicars, actors, musicians and teachers than St. Thomas’s roll call of “decrepit or old captaynes either at sea or at land, maimed or disabled soldiers, merchants fallen on hard times … by shipwreck or other calamity”.
The museum includes a case curated by the brothers, giving insights into their daily lives, including menus for meals in the great hall, and a roll call of attendance at daily church services with pin pricks who attended – which is now voluntary!
Not only is this a fascinating part of medieval London (completely intact) but there are some wonderful stories to be heard here. Not so much part of 'hidden London' as practically reclusive.
- , Culture
- , Indoor
- , outdoor
- , City
- , market
- , family
- , Tours
- , City Central
- , churches
LocationCharterhouse, Charterhouse Square, , Clerkenwell, London , EC1M 6AN (View on Google Maps)
Medieval Museum and Chapel
Guided tours are charged for