Tag Archives: Charterhouse

“The queen removed from the Lord North’s palace” (Henry Machyn, 1558)

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Queen's Walk.JPG

On this day in 1558, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:

“The 28th day of November the queen removed to the Tower from the Lord North’s palace, [which] was the Charterhouse.  All the streets unto the Tower … new gravelled.  Her Grace rode through Barbican and Cripplegate, by London Wall unto Bishopsgate, and up to Leadenhall and through Gracechurch Street and Fenchurch Street; and afore rode gentlemen and many knights and lords, and after came all the trumpets blowing, and then came all the heralds in array; and my Lord of Pembroke bore the queen’s sword; and then came her Grace on horseback, apparelled in purple velvet with a scarf about her neck, and the sergeants of arms about her Grace; and next after her rode Sir Robert Dudley the Master of her Horse; and so the guard with halberds.  And there was such shooting of guns as never was heard afore; so to the Tower, with all the nobles … ”.

To live and die in Charterhouse

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1101 of St Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian Order (of hermit-monks).

The Carthusian monastery, or “Chartrouse” in Charterhouse Square was built  in 1371 by Sir Walter (de) Manny, “a stranger born, lord of the town of Manny, in the diocese of Cambray, beyond the seas,  who for service done to  Edward III was made Knight of the Garter” (Stow).  In fact, the site was first consecrated as a burial ground for victims of the “Black Death” in 1348-9 (again as Stow put it, “A great pestilence … overspread all England, so wasting the people that scarce the tenth person of all sorts was left alive, and churchyards were not sufficient to receive the dead, but men were forced to choose out certain fields for burial”).

During the Reformation, between 1535-40, the Prior, John Houghton and six  Carthusian monks from the London Charterhouse were hanged, drawn and quartered for treason, for refusing to take an oath acknowledging the king as the head  of the church, most of them at Tyburn.  And in 1537, a further nine  monks died, or rather were allowed to die, of starvation, in gaol at Newgate.

After the associated Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site became a private residence, originally owned by Sir Edward North, the Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations, from 1545; and then a charitable alms-house and school founded by a bequest by Thomas  Sutton, the one-time Master of the Ordnance in the Northern Parts and the richest man in England, from 1611  (the school relocated to Godalming in Surrey in 1872).

Remarkably, much still survives here from the Medieval to post-Medieval, Tudor to Stuart period, either in its original state, or restored thereto by Seely and Paget following damage sustained during an incendiary bombing raid in 1941.  Perhaps the most notable buildings, fragments of buildings or fitments are Sutton’s memorial in what is now the Chapel, but was once the Chapter House, dating to 1614; North’s Great Hall, dating at least in part to the 1540s; his Great Chamber, also dating at least in part to the 1540s, and one of the finest in all England, where Queen Elizabeth I more than once held court, at great cost to her host; Wash-House Court, dating back to the early 1530s, in the case of the brick buildings, and to an even  earlier part of the monastic period, in the case of the stone ones …

Monastic cell

… and the doorway to “Cell B”, in the Norfolk Cloister, complete with  its guichet or serving hatch, dating all the way back to the time of the original foundation of the monastery in 1371.

 

“Three monks of the London Charterhouse were hanged, drawn and quartered” (1535)

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According to one – harsh – contemporary account, on this day in 1535:

“On the xix day of June, three monks of the London Charterhouse were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn  – their quarters set up about London for denying the king to be supreme head of the Church. Their names were William Exmewe, Humphrey Middlemore and Sebastian Newdigate (*). These men were arraigned at Westminster and had behaved themselves very stiffly and stubbornly. When they heard their indictment read about how traitorously they had spoken against the King’s Majesty, his crown and dignity, they neither blushed nor bashed at it, but very foolishly and hypocritically acknowledged their treason which maliciously they announced, having no learning for their defence, but rather being asked many questions, they used a malicious silence, thinking as by their examinations afterward in the  Tower of London it did appear for they said they thought those men, which was Lord Cromwell and others that there sat upon them in judgement, to be heretics and not of the Church of God, and therefore not worthy to be either answered or spoken unto. And therefore as they deserved they received as you have heard before”.

(*) Newdigate was a personal friend of the King, Henry VIII, but refused to take the oath acknowledging him as the supreme head of the church, despite being implored by him to do so, on two separate occasions.

The end of the Black Death in London (Robert of Avesbury, 1349)

victims-of-the-black-death-as-depicted-in-the-toggenburg-bible-of-1411.jpg

In 1349, Robert of Avesbury wrote:

“The pestilence which had first broken out in the land occupied by the Saracens became so much stronger that, sparing no dominion, it visited with the scourge of sudden death the various parts of all the kingdoms … .  [I]t began in England in Dorsetshire … in the year of the Lord 1348, and immediately advancing from place to place it attacked men without warning … .  Very many of those who were attacked in the morning it carried out of human affairs before noon.  And no one whom it willed to die did it permit to live longer than three or four days.  …  And about the Feast of All Saints [November 1st, 1348], reaching London, it deprived many of their life daily, and increased to so great an extent that from the feast of the Purification [February 2nd, 1349] till after Easter [April 12th, 1349] there were more than two hundred bodies of those who had died buried daily in the cemetery which had been then recently made near Smithfield, besides the bodies which were in other graveyards … .  The grace of the Holy Spirit finally intervening, …  about the feast of Whitsunday [May 31st, 1349], it ceased at London … ”.

There were emergency burial sites, or “plague pits”, at East Smithfield, in the grounds of the Cistercian abbey of St Mary Graces, and at West Smithfield, in what were to become the grounds of the Carthusian monastery of Charterhouse, founded in 1371.

a-black-death-skeleton-being-analysed-by-an-osteoarchaeologist-charterhouse

The Charterhouse site,  which only came to light during  work preparatory to the ongoing construction of the “Crossrail” station at Farringdon, has recently been partially archaeologically excavated.  A small number of skeletons have been unearthed here that have been dated to the time of the Black Death, and indeed  that still contain traces of the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis.  Many thousands more are thought to lie buried here still.  Archaeologists and epidemiologists suspect that so many deaths in evidently such a short space of time must have been caused a particularly contagious and virulent pneumonic or septicaemic strain of the plague, and not  by the bubonic strain (the pneumonic and septicaemic strains are capable of being transmitted directly from infected person to person, and are characterised by mortality rates of 90-100%, whereas  the vector-borne bubonic strain is transmitted by rat flea from infected black or brown rat to person, and is characterised by mortality rates of approximately 50%).  Another argument against the Black Death having been bubonic plague is that it began to spike  in London in the winter of 1348-9, when the rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) that transmits this strain of the disease would have been inactive, as it is  everywhere  today at temperatures of less than 10degC.

 

The martyrdom of John Houghton, the  Prior of the London Charterhouse (1535)

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On this day in 1535, John Houghton, the Prior of the London Charterhouse, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, for refusing to take an oath acknowledging the King – Henry VIII – as the Supreme Head of the Church in England (*).  His last words are reported to have been as follows:

“I beseech all here present to attest for me on the dreadful day of judgement that being about to die I declare that I have refused to comply with the will of His Majesty the King, not from obstinacy, malice or a rebellious spirit, but solely for fear of offending the Supreme Majesty of God”.

Previously, from the window of his cell in the Tower of London, Thomas More had witnessed Houghton, together with two other Carthusian priors, a Bridgettine monk and a secular priest,  being taken to Tyburn, and remarked to his daughter Meg [Roper]: “These blessed Fathers be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriage” (**).

(*) A further six  monks from the London Charterhouse were executed during the Reformation, and nine died, or rather were allowed to die, of starvation, in gaol at Newgate.

(**) More himself was executed two months later.

The height of the Black Death in London (Robert of Avesbury, 1349)

victims-of-the-black-death-as-depicted-in-the-toggenburg-bible-of-1411.jpgIn 1349, Robert of Avesbury wrote:

“The pestilence which had first broken out in the land occupied by the Saracens became so much stronger that, sparing no dominion, it visited with the scourge of sudden death the various parts of all the kingdoms … .  [I]t began in England in Dorsetshire … in the year of the Lord 1348, and immediately advancing from place to place it attacked men without warning … .  Very many of those who were attacked in the morning it carried out of human affairs before noon.  And no one whom it willed to die did it permit to live longer than three or four days.  …  And about the Feast of All Saints [November 1st, 1348], reaching London, it deprived many of their life daily, and increased to so great an extent that from the feast of the Purification [February 2nd, 1349] till after Easter [April 12th, 1349] there were more than two hundred bodies of those who had died buried daily in the cemetery which had been then recently made near Smithfield, besides the bodies which were in other graveyards … .  The grace of the Holy Spirit finally intervening, …  about the feast of Whitsunday [May 31st, 1349], it ceased at London … ”.

There were emergency burial sites, or “plague pits”, at East Smithfield, in the grounds of the Cistercian abbey of St Mary Graces, and at West Smithfield, in what were to become the grounds of the Carthusian monastery of Charterhouse, founded in 1371.

a-black-death-skeleton-being-analysed-by-an-osteoarchaeologist-charterhouse

The Charterhouse site,  which only came to light during  work preparatory to the ongoing construction of the “Crossrail” station at Farringdon, has recently been partially archaeologically excavated.  A small number of skeletons have been unearthed here that have been dated to the time of the Black Death, and indeed  that still contain traces of the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis.  Many thousands more are thought to lie buried here still.  Archaeologists and epidemiologists suspect that so many deaths in evidently such a short space of time must have been caused a particularly contagious and virulent pneumonic or septicaemic strain of the plague, and not  by the bubonic strain (the pneumonic and septicaemic strains are capable of being transmitted directly from infected person to person, and are characterised by mortality rates of 90-100%, whereas  the vector-borne bubonic strain is transmitted by rat flea from infected black or brown rat to person, and is characterised by mortality rates of approximately 50%).  Another argument against the Black Death having been bubonic plague is that it began to spike  in London in the winter of 1348-9, when the rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) that transmits this strain of the disease would have been inactive, as it is  everywhere  today at temperatures of less than 10degC.

 

The intensification of the Black Death in London (Robert of Avesbury, 1349)

victims-of-the-black-death-as-depicted-in-the-toggenburg-bible-of-1411.jpgIn 1349, Robert of Avesbury wrote:

“The pestilence which had first broken out in the land occupied by the Saracens became so much stronger that, sparing no dominion, it visited with the scourge of sudden death the various parts of all the kingdoms … .  [I]t began in England in Dorsetshire … in the year of the Lord 1348, and immediately advancing from place to place it attacked men without warning … .  Very many of those who were attacked in the morning it carried out of human affairs before noon.  And no one whom it willed to die did it permit to live longer than three or four days.  …  And about the Feast of All Saints [November 1st, 1348], reaching London, it deprived many of their life daily, and increased to so great an extent that from the feast of the Purification [February 2nd, 1349] till after Easter [April 12th, 1349] there were more than two hundred bodies of those who had died buried daily in the cemetery which had been then recently made near Smithfield, besides the bodies which were in other graveyards … .  The grace of the Holy Spirit finally intervening, …  about the feast of Whitsunday [May 31st, 1349], it ceased at London … ”.

There were emergency burial sites, or “plague pits”, at East Smithfield, in the grounds of the Cistercian abbey of St Mary Graces, and at West Smithfield, in what were to become the grounds of the Carthusian monastery of Charterhouse, founded in 1371.

a-black-death-skeleton-being-analysed-by-an-osteoarchaeologist-charterhouse

The Charterhouse site,  which only came to light during  work preparatory to the ongoing construction of the “Crossrail” station at Farringdon, has recently been partially archaeologically excavated.  A small number of skeletons have been unearthed here that have been dated to the time of the Black Death, and indeed  that still contain traces of the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis.  Many thousands more are thought to lie buried here still.  Archaeologists and epidemiologists suspect that so many deaths in evidently such a short space of time must have been caused a particularly contagious and virulent pneumonic or septicaemic strain of the plague, and not  by the bubonic strain (the pneumonic and septicaemic strains are capable of being transmitted directly from infected person to person, and are characterised by mortality rates of 90-100%, whereas  the vector-borne bubonic strain is transmitted by rat flea from infected black or brown rat to person, and is characterised by mortality rates of approximately 50%).  Another argument against the Black Death having been bubonic plague is that it began to spike  in London in the winter of 1348-9, when the rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) that transmits this strain of the disease would have been inactive, as it is  everywhere  today at temperatures of less than 10degC.