Visiting The Charterhouse in the City of London
The City area is the oldest part of London and unsurprisingly, it’s filled with ancient buildings. What is surprising however, is that The Charterhouse wasn’t open for tours until 2017. Read on as we visit a site that dates back to 1348.
A grand, imposing collection of buildings on the edge of Charterhouse Square near the Barbican Centre, this site was founded as a burial ground during the Great Plague. By 1371, a monastery had been built here and it became an almshouse (a house for the poor) in 1611, after Henry VIII closed England’s monasteries.
Walking around this atmospheric complex of buildings, which combines grand rooms with cobbled, peaceful squares, feels like going back in time or walking through a film set. It’s stunning to think that it was hidden behind a high border wall for centuries, going unnoticed by Londoners until just last year.
The Charterhouse is still an almshouse, offering accommodation for a small number of people who cannot afford to retire independently. The residents are called ‘Brothers’ and must be over 60, single and of good character. If you book ahead, you can go on a guided tour with one of the Brothers, who’ll tell you what it’s like to live there.
We were amazed to see the scorch marks on wooden pillars in the old library – these were caused by a fire during The Blitz, in 1941. Meanwhile, the cloisters is where it is thought that some of today’s football rules were created, including the offside rule.
The site has a shop (where you can buy the FA’s first-ever FA rule book form 1863), a small museum and a tiny, working chapel which are all free to visit, while tours of the rest of The Charterhouse start from £10.
If you love English history, or if think that you’ve seen everything that the City of London has to offer, you should pay a visit to The Charterhouse.
The Charterhouse is open Tue-Sun, 11am-5pm. Museum and chapel admission free; standard tour £10; Brothers tour £15; approximately three tours per day.
Charterhouse Square, EC1M 6AN | 020 3818 8873