Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 3

streetWhat I love about London is you will be walking down a regular looking street and, unless you know it’s there, can be missing an absolute treasure. When doing some research for our trip this month, J and I came across a reference to Charterhouse. I was vaguely aware of it – Wasn’t it a school? – but knew absolutely no details, let alone its history. After checking out their site, we saw they offered tours so we signed up.

courtyardWhat we discovered was a mediaeval jewel in the heart of the busy city. Spread over six acres(!) Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery founded by monks from Chartreuse in France in 1371. (‘Charterhouse’ is the anglicanisation of ‘Chartreuse’.)

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530s, many of the monks were hung at Tyburn for refusing to take an oath recognising Henry as head of the church in England, and the monastery became a possession of the crown. It was granted to Lord North, who sold it to The Duke of Norfolk, who later sold it to Thomas Sutton in 1611.

chapel

The chapel at Charterhouse where services (which can be attended by members of the public) are held.

Sutton was an extremely wealthy ‘commoner’, having made much of his money in munitions.  He turned Charterhouse into a charitable foundation to educate boys and offer residential care for single elderly men.

cloister

The cloister at Charterhouse where several rules of football were invented

Former pupils of the school – which relocated to Surrey in 1872 when it outgrew the space – include Lord Baden-Powell (founder of the Scout movement), William Makepeace Thackery (writer) and John Wesley (founder of the Methodist church).

If you’re a soccer fan, you might be interested to learn that two of the rules of the game (the offside rule and throw in) came into being on this site where the boys played the game in the cloisters.

Charterhouse continues to offer accommodation for single elderly men. Known as ‘Brothers’, they must be between 60-80 years of age and men of limited financial means. (Teachers, artists, clergymen, etc.) They live independently in their own flats in the grounds but meet together daily for meals. Although Charterhouse is an Anglican community, there is no obligation to attend services – or even be a member of The Church of England.

burned door

Note the burned door on the right hand side of the archway.

Charterhouse was damaged by bombing during World War Two. You can still see the evidence of the remnants of a burned door which protected the chapel.

Today, Charterhouse is open for tours on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday and alternate Saturday afternoons. They last for approximately an hour and a half and cost 10GBP per person. Tours are led by Brothers and must be booked in advance.  Please click here for the online application form. Members of the public can also attend services in their chapel. Please click here for information.

tv location

One of the many courtyards in Charterhouse. Brothers live in flats in these buildings.

Charterhouse can also be hired as wedding venue and is used quite often by film and television companies for location shooting for productions such as Downton Abbey and Great Expectations.

If you’re a history geek and/or looking for something just a little bit different during your visit to London, both J and myself highly recommend Charterhouse. With history stretching back over 700 years, it really is a jewel.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 2

I love London. Even though I lived there for a year, and visit as often as I can, I never get bored with it. There are always new and surprising places to discover.

dennis servers

Dennis Severs House. 18 Folgate Street. Spitalfields. London.

The Dennis Severs House, at 18 Folgate Street in Spitalfields, is of those gems.

Dennis Severs (1948-1999) an American artist, bought a very run-down Georgian House in the then unfashionable and equal run-down area of Spitalfields in 1979 and turned it into both his home and a piece of still-life drama.

Depicting the home of a fictional family of silk weavers from the late 18th century through to the Victorian age, the house is not a museum. Some articles are historically accurate, but the atmosphere Severs has created is a sense of crossing a threshold into a living past.

Visiting the ten rooms – in silence – it’s as though the family has just left and you explore their life using all five senses.  Perhaps most potent is the sense of smell: warm scones freshly baked in the cellar kitchen; greenery from the Christmas tree in the parlour; coal fires burning in the grate; perfume in the upstairs bedroom. And there’s more – much more: the steady wheeze of the grandfather clock; a bird chirping outside; how dim the rooms are even with candles blazing; the unevenness of the wooden floors.

But it’s the little details that brings their story to life. Being a rather messy person myself – who is forever searching for things I’ve mislaid – I sympathized with the lady of the house who had removed her ear-rings and left them beside her teacup in the parlour. I can just imagine her frustration next morning trying to find them, in the same way I am constantly  on the search for my discarded glasses.

I was unable to take photographs inside, so please check out the link below for more details, or view the interview below from 1997, with Dennis Severs himself, which I found on Youtube.

And definitely consider adding a visit to The Dennis Severs House to your itinerary on your next visit to London.

Getting there: Tube or bus to Liverpool Street Station.  It’s only a 5 minute walk from there.

Website: http://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk

Further Reading: 18 Folgate Street. The History.

Dennis Severs Website