What was a Charterhouse?

A Charterhouse was the English term for a Carthusian priory or abbey

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It’s a corruption of Chartreuse, the location in France where the first house of the order was founded by St Bruno in 1084. The Carthusians put a great deal of emphasis on individual prayer, work and contemplation, and much of their time was spent living as virtual hermits in cells within their abbeys.

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A good example of an English Carthusian priory is Mount Grace in North Yorkshire, where one of the cells – in reality a small two-storey house with its own garden – has been reconstructed. A specially-designed hatch enabled food to be delivered to the occupant without the need for him to speak to, or even see the person who brought it.

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The Carthusians were one of the few orders to put up much of a fight against Henry VIIIs dissolution of the monasteries, and a number were executed as a result. In 1611, Thomas Sutton used the old site of a ‘Charterhouse’ near Smithfield for a new school he had founded. In 1872 the school moved to new buildings just outside Godalming but continued to be called Charterhouse and its students are still known as Carthusians.