About the collection
The Charterhouse is custodian of a wide range of historic objects which have been acquired throughout the centuries.
There are 120 objects on display in our museum including 35 loans from Charterhouse School, Museum of London and Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum displays start in the present day and travel backwards through time to reveal the fascinating history of the site through a tightly curated selection of objects. See Object Highlights to explore some of these in more detail.
The rest of the collection, which is displayed in private areas of the site for the enjoyment of the Brothers and organised in secure storage, is in the process of being photographed, condition checked and catalogued by a team of dedicated volunteers.
We continue to grow the collection with relevant acquisitions acquired through gifts and grants. Do you have an object that you would like to donate?
The main collections in our care include:
Successive changes to the site have revealed an array of archaeological material dating from all periods of the Charterhouse’s history. One of the most significant medieval pieces is the substantial fragment of a painted statue of [St Catherine] Link to Object highlights originally installed in a medieval side chapel and discovered following bomb damage during the Blitz. There are also two fragments from the tomb of Sir Walter Manny, founder of the monastery on this site, whose funeral in 1372 was attended by King Edward III.
The charity archive is deposited at the London Metropolitan Archives and includes Thomas Sutton’s personal papers, Pensioners’ and Scholars’ Records, Estate and Manorial Record, Deeds and other material dating from the period from 1611 to 1993.
The beautiful gardens and historic spaces of the Charterhouse have inspired an abundance of visual representations over the centuries and there are over 1000 paintings, photographs, postcards, prints and drawings in our care.
These include a set of portraits of 17th century Governors including Charles II and James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, painted by leading artists of the day such as Sir Godfrey Kneller, Louise Hollandine and Sir Peter Lely.
An extensive collection of 19th and 20th century photographs and postcards clearly depict changes to the historic interiors and the results of bomb damage during the Second World War.
A Charterhouse quirk is the generous range of work created by talented current and former Brothers of the almshouse including Walter Greaves, a close friend of James McNeill Whistler, Robert Medley, whose work is represented in the Tate collection, and Syd Cain, former Art Director on the James Bond films.
Our three library collections illuminate the lives lived and lost here over the centuries.
The Bible collection is comprised of 50 volumes dating from 1549 to 1932 and includes Prayer Books related to our historic Chapel which was been adapted over the years to accommodate growing congregations of monks, Tudor nobles, almshouse residents and schoolboys.
The Sutton’s Hospital collection describes Charterhouse history and forms an important reference collection which adds to our knowledge of the site. It includes several copies of Domus Carthusiana: or an account of the Most Noble Foundation of the Charter-House by Samuel Herne, an early history of the site published in 1677.
The Thackeray collection of works by and about William Makepeace Thackeray, a pupil at Charterhouse School, were bequeathed to the charity in 1963.
Visit the Charterhouse on a guided tour and you can come face to face with our collection of historic silver. Displayed in the Old Library this collection includes a 1640 Charles I Alms Dish used for the collection of offerings from the congregation, a Hanoverian gravy spoon and a set of six George IV Salt Cellars dating from 1825.
Since opening our doors to the public in 2017 an increasing number of visitors have discovered a connection to the Charterhouse in their family tree. We have grown our social history collection through generous donations which include a pre-First World War memoir about life at the Charterhouse, a collection of 14 polaroid photos showing the life of European au-pairs who worked on-site in the 1960s, and a collection of charming Sutton’s Hospital crockery with hand-painted designs.
The tapestry collection was purchased by the first Governors of the Charterhouse in 1615 to adorn the walls of the Great Chamber. Originally a set of eight purchased from London merchant Edmund Traves, six of the Flemish tapestries remain. The principal piece depicts the Queen of Sheba meeting King Solomon surrounded by courtiers bearing gifts. Luckily, during the Blitz fire of 1941 the tapestries were removed before the flames reached them. As part of a new National Lottery Heritage Fund project the tapestries will be cleaned and consolidated in early 2020.