The Charterhouse is an old almshouse situated in Charterhouse Square in the City of London.
Evening openings with the NGS are fun and with the promise of a BBQ, how can one resist?
It has a rich history; Carthusian monastery, wealthy nobleman’s house, almshouse and school.
The Brothers were originally those who could supply ‘good testimonye and certificat of theire good behaviour and soundnes in religion’ those who had been servants to the King ‘either decrepit or old captaynes either at sea or land, maimed or disabled soldiers, merchants fallen on hard times, those ruined by shipwreck or other calamity’.
Now it is a community of about 40 single healthy, over sixty year olds who are in need of financial and social support.
A Brother greeted us at the archway and we made our way in from the square.
Passing hidden passageways,
we enter the first of the courtyard gardens. A modern building on the left, is in juxtaposition with the medieval buildings which surround the square.
Head Gardener Claire has been here since 2009. With a delightful mix of planting, she has restored what was originally a rather run down area.
We take the mown path through the centre.
Visitors are amazed as they gaze up at the lofty giant viper’s bugloss, echium pinnifolium.
More echiums seem to wave at us from amongst poppies and roses in the early summer borders.
On the ground, a water lily shyly pops up its head.
I am confused by the term ‘brother’ but quickly understand that it is a purely traditional term for those living in this community, acknowledging the past when there was a monastery on the site. Females now live here too.
Brother Gordon to whom we chat by the pump, points out that there is an air raid shelter lying silently under the lawn. He asks us where we are from and tells us that he was once a singer, and made his debut on Cromer Pier with Ronnie Corbett. Just a few weeks older than the Queen, he is still entertaining his audience.
A bench is sited in the shade of a spreading holm oak where one can view the pleasant garden beyond.
The barbecue is getting going and smells delicious. Before we partake, we decide to look around the rest of the garden because the clouds are typically threatening.
There is also scent from the mock orange, a pretty philadelphus.
The next courtyard, known as Pensioner’s Court is slightly larger. It is private for residents only and a magnolia fills one area of the lawn,
and arum lilies grow under a window.
Roses spill over the box squares situated in two of the corners.
There is a splash of colour along the walls.
The third and final courtyard is a more relaxed and informal.
A wildlife garden; Bees are kept here,
and bugs encouraged,
and the all too important compost bins are tucked away.
A fine large London Plane stretches upwards and dominates the space, and now hurrying to shelter from the rain under the archway, Brother Tim informs us that it is the tallest in London.
The garden ends here. A door in the wall will take you out to the Clerkenwell Road, now busy with the evening traffic.
And although we might be in a deliciously green space, a Narnia type haven, we are in fact in the heart of the City of London.
It is really raining now and sheltering under one of the many mulberry trees does not keep us dry for long.
We join the barbecue prepared by the chefs; it is delicious and mercifully we keep dry under the cloistered way. I decide to skirt around the old twisted tree to visit the little garden on the side.
It has been charmingly laid out, the pink peonies and poppies look particularly good this evening.
If you stand in the middle you can feel the size and take in the calm. Looking one way,
and then the other. Overlooked by the old Tudor buildings,
a visitor enjoys the scene from beneath an umbrella.
Despite the wet, the roses and clematis still look a picture.
With the barbecue over and and the rain continuing it really is time to head for home.
Before exiting into the square we take a glimpse of hidden courtyard.
It has been a delightful and unique visit and we are grateful to the community of brothers for sharing this hidden gem with us.