Originally published by thecharterhouse.org.
The word Charterhouse, meaning a Carthusian monastery, is derived from La Grande Chartreuse, the first hermitage of the Carthusian Order founded by Saint Bruno. There were ten Charterhouses in the Britain before the Reformation. The pious monks who lived in them worked, meditated and said daily offices in the solitude of their cells, encountering each other in church only for daily Matins and Vespers, and less often at the convent mass.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries brought an end to the Carthusian Order in Britain. Between 1536 and 1541, Henry VIII disbanded Catholic monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland, appropriated their income, disposed of their assets, and reassigned or dismissed their former members and functions. Carthusians at the London Charterhouse who resisted the Dissolution were treated severely: the Prior, John Houghton, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, and of the ten monks that were arrested and taken to Newgate Prison, nine died of starvation.
In the centuries that followed, several Charterhouses were heavily adapted and used for a variety of purposes. The London Charterhouse, for instance, was purchased in 1545 by Sir Edward North and transformed into a luxurious mansion house. This was later acquired by a wealthy civil servant and businessman named Thomas Sutton, who bequeathed a large portion of his fortune to establishing on the site a hospital for 80 impoverished gentlemen and a school for 40 boys.
Each Charterhouse has its own unique history. I recently visited the one in Kingston Upon Hull, where I was treated to a fascinating tour of the buildings and grounds by Master Stephen Deas. He showed me, among other things, a plaque commemorating the two London Carthusians, Walworth and Rochester, whom Henry VIII caused to be lodged in the Hull Charterhouse on their way to execution at York; and the mulberry tree under which Andrew Marvell, the famous poet and MP, is said to have played when his father was the Master of the House.
From its foundation, the Hull Charterhouse enjoyed a separate endowment that enabled it to survive the Dissolution. Nevertheless, the structure of the hospital was significantly destroyed in the first siege of Hull during the English Civil War, when the Master and almspeople had to abandon the buildings and seek refuge in a tenement in Silver Street, on land that the Charterhouse has owned since the fifteenth century, and still owns to this day.
Master John Shawe began rebuilding the war-damaged buildings in the early 1650s. The chapel was rebuilt some twenty years later, and served the house for over a century when, in 1777, it was demolished by Master Bourne, along with the greater part of the seventeenth-century buildings.
Master Bourne enlarged the Master’s House, and rebuilt the rest of the House in the handsome classical style that you can see today.
Inside the chapel. Note the earl’s coronet hanging from the foot of the chandelier.