Inventory Site Record

Charterhouse Precincts (Charterhouse Square and The Charterhouse) (Islington)

Brief Description

In 1371 Charterhouse was founded by Sir Walter de Manny (1310-1372) as a Carthusian priory on Spital Croft to commemorate the 'Great Pestilence'; today a series of enclosed gardens within the Charterhouse Precincts form the setting for the remains of the priory. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries a Tudor mansion was built here in 1545. In 1614, under the will of the owner Thomas Sutton, it was endowed as an almshouse and school, Sutton's Hospital in the Charterhouse. The almshouse remains but the school moved in 1872. The largest of the enclosed gardens is Preachers Court Garden. Charterhouse Square did not take shape as a formal residential square until the C17th when the pentagonal garden was laid out with walks lined with mature lime trees, bordered on three sides by mansions and on the north by the old priory buildings. Charterhouse Square Gardens, formerly only open to key-holders, is now open to the public on a regular basis following re-landscaping works that respected the historic character.

Practical Information
Site location:
Charterhouse Square/Carthusian Street/Charterhouse Street
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Private Garden;, Garden Square
Open to public?
Opening times:
Charterhouse Square Gardens Tues-Sun 11am-5pm; Museum open 11am-4.45pm
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 5 times, most recently in 2006.
Special conditions:
No dogs
Has opened for OGSW/National Gardens Scheme
Public transport:
Tube: Barbican (Hammersmith & City, Circle, Metropolitan). Rail: Barbican. Bus: 4, 56, 153
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.thecharterhouse.org

Full Site Description

There are a series of enclosed gardens within the Charterhouse Precincts that form the setting for the remains of the Carthusian priory that was here from 1371-1537. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, a substantial Tudor mansion was built here in 1545. In 1614 it was endowed by Thomas Sutton (d.1611) as almshouses for 80 poor gentlemen together with a school, becoming Sutton's Hospital in the Charterhouse, which remains as the occupier of the site, although the school moved away in 1872. In c.1348 a small area of 1.2 hectares of No Man's Land outside the City walls had become Pardon Churchyard for use as a plague pit for victims of the Black Death; this was to the north of what is now Clerkenwell Road. Nearby was Spital Croft, a field of 4 hectares (13 acres) belonging to St Bartholomew's Hospital, the western part of which was acquired by Sir Walter de Manny (1310-1372) for further plague burials. A chapel was built in 1349, the remains of which are outlined in Chapel Court. Sir Walter de Manny acquired the title to this in 1370. In 1377 the eastern part of Spital Croft was acquired and the priory was built on this land, founded to commemorate the Great Pestilence, with the burial ground as the outer precinct. The burial ground was later Charterhouse Yard and then Charterhouse Square. Other land was acquired by the priory between 1370 and 1392 to the north of the precinct, which subsequently became the charity's Charterhouse Estate.

In the C16th handsome houses were built around its borders but Charterhouse Square did not take shape as a formal residential square until the C17th when it was laid out with diagonal walks lined with already mature lime trees, bordered on three sides by fine mansions and on the north by rambling old priory buildings of the C14th onwards. The central area was enclosed by 1717, two avenues of trees were planted in 1722 and it was improved under a private Act of Parliament in 1741 to protect it against the depredations of common beggars, the palings having decayed. Among buildings overlooking Charterhouse Square are the Master's Lodge of 1716; Nos. 4-5 are early C18th; Nos. 12-13 are late C18th and No. 22 is 1788. The wrought iron gates to the square date from the late C18th and early C19th, although the railings around the square are modern, with fine London plane and younger lime trees within.

The largest of the enclosed gardens within the Charterhouse is the Preacher's Court Garden created c.1826 on the site of the Old Brother's Quarters and the garden of the Second Master's residence, which was a single rectangular bed throughout the C19th encompassed by bollards linked with chains. It was laid to lawn and had one large flower bed and subsequently three trees, and was extended westwards in the 1970s by Oliver Van Oss, former Master of the Charterhouse. It has a few small trees including notable mulberry and the Priory Pump. Adjacent is the Wall Garden created in c.1985-8 on the site of a former building. To the north of the Preacher's Court is the Pensioners' Court through an arched passage, the buildings erected in 1825-30 designed by Edward Blore and built on the part of the site of the Old Charterhouse Graveyard, also called Sutton's Burial Ground. The Chapel within Charterhouse contains the tomb of Thomas Sutton (d.1611). The court has a central C19th cast iron lamp and a cruciform arrangement of paths forming four grass plats dotted with island beds with shrubs and flowers.

The Master's Garden is to the north through a central portal off the Pensioners' Court, formerly known as the New Charterhouse Burial Ground in the late C19th, which superseded the Old Graveyard and the kitchen garden. It is turfed with a few notable trees and shrubs, with memorial plaques affixed to the high C18th/C19th boundary wall. The C16th Washhouse Court is paved and laid to gravel with a small specimen tree, which is the only substantial surviving part of the priory apart from the Chapter House. The Master's or Inner Court has the most collegiate character of the gardens, built on the site of the former Little Cloister, and had large low beds and crossed by a network of paths. It is now turfed and has a perimeter walk, with a large C19th lamp standard in the centre. The Outer Court was the former entrance courtyard to the Tudor house, with access from the square through the Outer Gatehouse. The Conduit House at the west end is one of the former distribution points for water within the Charterhouse and, with the whole of the Charterhouse, was restored by Lord Mottistone and Paul Paget after WWII.

The Chapel Court Garden was built on the site of the former priory church and chapels and Sir Walter de Manny's grave is located at the centre; railed on the south side, this garden can be seen from Charterhouse Square. The Great Cloister and garden of the Charterhouse became the bowling green and garden of Howard House in the early C17th, later sold to the Merchant Taylors in the early C19th and acquired for St Bartholomew's Medical College (q.v.) in 1949 (33?) . An aquatint by T Ward of 1813 in King's Topographical Collection shows scholars from the Charterhouse school depicted playing on the green while their schoolmasters look on.

In 2013 the Governors of the Charterhouse embarked on a scheme to open parts of the Charterhouse to the public and improve the landscaping of the square, which was undertaken by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan Landscape Design. One of the main aims was to strengthen the visual and physical link between the garden and the historic buildings surrounding it, to promote greater public access to the garden by opening it to the public on a regular basis. The area of the garden has been increased by reducing the number of car parking spaces so that it is a more attractive and welcoming space for residents and visitors.

Sources consulted:

Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Mrs Basil Holmes, The London Burial Grounds, London, 1896; LGSD booklet 2003; Mary Cosh, 'The Squares of Islington Part I, Finsbury and Clerkenwell', London 1990; G S Davies, 'The Charterhouse in London', London, 1921; Sir William St John Hope, 'The History of the London Charterhouse', London, 1925; E E Harrison, 'The History of Charterhouse and its Buildings', London 1990; the Journal of the London Society vol.339 September 1957; D Knowles and W F Grimes, 'Charterhouse', London 1954; A Oswald, 'The London Charterhouse Restored', Country Life, 1959; 'Historical Account of the Charter-House', London 1808; W F Taylor, 'The Charterhouse of London', London 1912; Tony Venison, ' A Garden in the Barbican: The Master's Garden at the Charterhouse, EC1', Country Life 13 September 1979

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ318819 (531920,182000)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
The Governors of Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse
Site management:
The Governors of Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse
C14th onwards
Listed structures:
LBI: Master's House. LBII: Nos. 4-5, early C18th; Nos. 12-13, late C18th; No. 22, 1788, and wrought iron gates to square late C18th and early C19th; telephone kiosk, 4 lamp posts, 6 bollards, gates north-west corner and south side.
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Charterhouse Square
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character/Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:
Local/strategic view corridor

Charterhouse Precincts (Charterhouse Square and The Charterhouse)

Charterhouse Square - Colin Wing - May 2006

Click a photo to enlarge.

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