All our services are open to the public. The gatekeeper will be happy to admit anyone who would like to attend.
The services use the 17th century language of the Book of Common Prayer. They are normally said rather than sung. On weekdays there are usually about half-a-dozen of us. On Sundays we are about 30, and there is music. Our organist provides accuracy and elegance, and the congregation … well, the congregation is enthusiastic in its singing of well-established hymns.
Monday to Saturday
08.00 Morning Prayer (Book of Common Prayer)
17.30 Evening Prayer (BCP)
11.30 Holy Communion in the Infirmary Chapel
Sundays and Saints’ Days
09.45 Holy Communion
Charterhouse lies outside the parish structure of London Diocese. As a Peculiar it’s overseen by an Ordinary, rather than a bishop. Our Ordinary is the Master. In practice, the chapel priest (the Preacher) is appointed in consultation with London Diocese, and is licensed by the Bishop of London.
Little remains of the 15th century Carthusian chapter house which occupied the site of the south aisle of the present chapel, though the ante-chapel (like an entrance lobby) from 1512 still survives.
The main body of today’s building appears to have served as the chapel for the mansion Lord North built, using materials of the monastery, which was demolished in 1545. The windows, which may be from the 15th or 16th century, have since been shortened, and restored more or less beyond recognition. In 1844, the stained glass window by Charles Clutterbuck, which shows the Crucifixion, was installed above the altar.
The altar – or Communion Table, as it would have been called then – is from 1613.
The north aisle and the Tuscan arcade were designed by Francis Carter, who was also responsible for the spacious cloister which joins the chapel to the main building. This cloister is a place of burial and memorial. The windows face Chapel Court, the site of the original 1349 church, a burial ground chapel for victims of the Black Death. On 15 January 1372 Sir Walter de Mauny was buried in front of the High Altar of what had by that time become the Carthusian Priory Chapel, dedicated as the House of the Salutation of the Mother of God. He was the founder of both burial ground and monastery (and also one of Edward III’s first Knights of the Garter). His grave was discovered during archaeological work after the war.
Carter’s work was carried out for the governors of the charity Thomas Sutton set up in 1611. The King James Hospital in Charterhouse was established for the care of 80 Brothers – elderly, single men who were lacking home and provision – and for the education of 40 boys from poor families. The school and almshouse shared this site until 1872, when the school moved to Godalming in Surrey. The charity’s executive officer was to be the Master, and he was to be assisted by the Preacher and other staff.
The chapel was enlarged to accommodate the staff and beneficiaries of the new charity, and also to provide a setting for Sutton’s tomb, which dominates the north aisle.
The monument, beneath which Sutton was interred in 1614, is an outstanding example of early 17th-century memorial sculpture. It was made by Johnson, Kinsman and Stone, and is in itself worth a visit to the Charterhouse.
Bulging northwards out from the north aisle is the galleried annexe designed by Redmond Pilkington and added in 1824 to accommodate the increasing number of pupils in the school. East-facing pews were removed from the south wall to make space for the terraced stalls, including that of the Master. As a result the building reads from north to south as a school assembly hall, and from west to east as a place of worship.
In 1842 the organ (Charterhouse Chapel Organ) and the splendid 17th century organ screen were moved from the entrance to the south aisle to that of the north. The first organ had been installed in 1626, when the an organist was appointed, Benjamin Cosyn, whose music is still played today. Among notable musicians associated with the chapel are Henry Purcell, John Christopher Pepusch (1667-1752) who arranged the music for John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, and William Horsley (1774-1858), composer of the tune Horsley for the hymn There is a green hill far away. The present Organist is Brother Graham Matthews, former organist of Sheffield Cathedral. On Sundays the organ is played by Miss Elizabeth Norman.
The Brothers on the whole are not men who command sufficient funds for them to be mentioned on the many memorials on the chapel walls. For many years they were interred in their own burial ground within the Charterhouse estate. A few memorial stones remain on the wall which borders Clerkenwell Road. From 1854, Tower Hamlets Cemetery was used, until 1929, when part of the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Little Hallingbury in Essex became the Brothers’ burial ground. Little Hallingbury was one of the estates Thomas Sutton left in the charity’s original endowment, and was where he had originally planned to set up his almshouse and school. An annual Thanksgiving Service takes place there in July.
The Preacher of the Charterhouse
The original Charter, dated 22 June 1611, establishing Thomas Sutton’s Foundation, stipulates the employment of one learned and godly Preacher to teach and preach the word of God to all said persons, poor people, and children, and officers at or in the said house. The Preacher of Charterhouse (an ordained priest in the Church of England) and Deputy Master is a resident member of the community.
For more information please click here to email the Preacher .