What is the Charterhouse?

The Charterhouse is an almshouse, a community, and a heritage site on a seven acre site in Clerkenwell, London. It has been a medieval monastery, a grand Tudor mansion, a boys’ school and an almshouse, which it remains to this day.

Thomas Sutton, who one of the wealthiest ‘commoners’ in Jacobean England, bought the Charterhouse and founded a charity in 1611. The two objectives of the charity were to provide accommodation for up to eighty men who had “served their country well”, and to provide an education for forty poor scholars. The school left the site in 1872, but today the Charterhouse is home to around 40 people in the almshouse.

The building is formally known as Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse, and is a registered charity (number 207773).

Visitors are invited to see our museum display curated in partnership with the Museum of London, which tells our story of the Charterhouse from the Black Death to the present day, as well as our Chapel during opening hours.  Visitors can also book onto a tour of our historic buildings and gardens, please see Visit Us for more information. We also have a purpose-built Learning Centre which is a multi-functional space from which we run our Learning Programme for schools. 

Our Venue Hire team facilitate use of our historic location for corporate hire, events, filming and weddings.

The Charterhouse has an Anglican history and tradition, but it is now not run as a religious organisation.

What is the Charterhouse mission?

Our mission is to be a community of excellence for the care of older people.  We will do this through providing housing, care and support for older people, while sharing our heritage and preserving it for future generations.

Almshouse and Infirmary FAQs

What is an almshouse?

An almshouse is a house or accommodation provided by a charity as housing for people in financial need.  You can find out more about almshouses here.

Who lives at the Charterhouse?

The Charterhouse provides a home for between 40 and 50 single people, aged 60 or older, who are in financial and social need and are capable of living independently. Beneficiaries of the charity pay a monthly maintenance contribution according to their means. Residents of the almshouse are known as ‘Brothers’,  although since 2017 this has also included women.

Why are the Charterhouse residents known as Brothers?

The title dates back to the foundation of the charity in the 17th Century,  where the beneficiaries of the charity who were then exclusively men were referred to as  the ‘Poor Brothers’ of the Charterhouse. The historic term remains in use for the residents living in this community today.

How does a new resident, or Brother, get selected?

All shortlisted applicants go through a thorough application process when housing become available, and, as well as meeting the basic criteria, there are background checks and several interview stages to ensure the person would really be happy living in and contributing to the existing established community. Find out more about applying to be a Brother here.

How do you support the Brothers?

The Charterhouse is committed to ensuring the Brothers are provided with a safe and caring environment in which they live independently for as possible.

What is the infirmary?

The Queen Elizabeth II infirmary is a care home registered with the Care Quality Commission, and staffed by experienced care workers who are trained and supervised under health and social care guidelines.  Nursing support is accessed through the local GP and specialist health teams with the NHS.   The name is also a historic term, and the building was named after Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.

Who is the infirmary for?

Brothers are required to be in good physical and mental health when they join the almshouse. If, as they get older, they have any health issues and need 24/7 care they can be cared for and supported in the infirmary.  There are generally a number of rooms in the Infirmary also available to private residents needing respite or longer-term care.

What are your safeguarding policies?

The Charterhouse works to provide its residents, volunteers, visitors and staff with a safe and secure environment. Our safeguarding policy applies to all staff, volunteers, Governors and contractors without exception. Our policy is reviewed annually and advice sought through the Islington adult and children safeguarding team to ensure that the most up to date recommendations are incorporated into our policy and followed.

Are you properly trained in safeguarding?

Our staff and volunteers are trained in, and committed to, the prevention of all forms of potential abuse. All parties involved in the running of the Charterhouse must attend safeguarding training as part of their induction, and when required by the Safeguarding Officer. This is in line with the London multiagency adult safeguarding policy and procedure .

Organisational FAQs

Where can I find your annual report?

You can view previous annual reports on the Charity Commission website under the name of Suttons Hospital in Charterhouse. Our latest Annual Report can be found here.

How is the Charterhouse financially constituted?

Incoming Resources: Income from the Charity’s investment and property portfolio, Brothers’ Contributions and other income are all accounted for on a receipts basis. Donations received for the general purposes of the Hospital Fund are credited to unrestricted funds, and those that are subject to the specific wishes of donors credited to the relevant fund.

Donations raised by specific fundraising for the Charterhouse Fund, and unrestricted legacies, are included in full on a receivable basis, and allocated to that Fund.

Carthusia Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hospital Fund which conducts all non-primary purpose trading activities for the Charterhouse. It operates on an arms-length basis from the Charity and has a separate board of directors. The share capital of £1 is wholly owned by the Hospital Fund.  All profit before tax is Gift-Aided to the Hospital. The accounts of the company are consolidated within those of the charity.

Resources expended: Resources expended are included in the Consolidated Statement of Financial Activities on an accruals basis, inclusive of any VAT which cannot be recovered.  Liabilities are recognised when there is a legal or constructive obligation committing the Charity to the expenditure, it is probable that settlement will be required and the amount of the obligation can be measured reliably.

Costs of raising funds include investment expenses and management fees, including fees charged for revaluations and disposals, are charged directly against the capital of the respective funds.  These fees can be specifically identified by reference to the investments held by each respective fund.

Why did you open the Charterhouse to the public?

Even before the charity was established in 1611, the history of the site was a microcosm of many aspects of the Nation’s history from the mid 1300s onwards.  Whist the charity exists to provide a home for the Brothers, we want to share access to our heritage and an understanding of our place in the national story.  In 2017 we opened up access to our site, through a guided tour offer and created a museum display so that visitors could  experience first-hand the remarkable site.  All visitors are invited to help us by contributing to the charity.  Their support is essential as routine maintenance costs over three quarters of a million pounds a year, even before specific conservation projects are considered.

What is the relationship between the Charterhouse and Charterhouse School?

In 1611, Thomas Sutton’s legacy established the Charterhouse as both a school for boys, and an almshouse for old gentlemen. Over time the school grew both in size and reputation. By the late 1800s the site was becoming overcrowded, and there were challenges managing the almshouse and its residents alongside the school.  At this time the Public Schools Commission of 1864 (the Clarendon Commission), recommended that the School move out of London. The Clarendon Commission also recommended separating the governance of public schools from their founding charities, not just at the Charterhouse. The Public Schools Act of 1868 authorised changing the constitutions of Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester. Part of the Charterhouse site was sold in order to finance the building of the Charterhouse school in Godalming, Surrey, and in 1872 the school migrated there while the almshouse remained at the Charterhouse in London.

The association between the School and the London Charterhouse continues to this day with representative ‘observers’ sitting on each Governing Board. The Charterhouse’s charity ‘scheme’ lists two objects – the relief of the beneficiaries in the almshouse and the advancement of education by the provision of financial support to Charterhouse School. This annual amount delivered to the School is based on an agreed historical calculation and is used to provide bursaries to students in need.

Charterhouse School and the Charterhouse in London continue to enjoy a close relationship, due to our shared foundation. The Charterhouse hosts an annual Founder’s Day service and dinner for the School to commemorate Thomas Sutton, and pupils regularly come to the Charterhouse for educational visits.

Why are you called Sutton’s Hospital?

The Charterhouse was originally called The Hospital of King James in the County of Middlesex, because King James was the first Royal governor. Today our official name is Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse.   The term ‘hospital’ dates back to the days when this word was used to describe shelter rather than an exclusively medical centre.

What is a Governor?

The Charterhouse has 15 Governors (Charity Trustees) and three Royal Governors.  The responsibility for the management of the Charterhouse is vested in its Charity Trustees, who are the Governors. The Royal Governors and the Archiepiscopal Governor have no management responsibilities and are not Charity Trustees.  Each Governor takes a specific interest in the individual welfare of up to three Brothers.

What are the Charterhouse plans for the future?

The Charity’s objects continue to be the provision of accommodation and care for the Brothers and financial support for bursaries to Charterhouse School.  The Governors are also aware of their responsibilities to maintain the Grade One listed historic buildings in which the Charity operates.  The specific steps that the Governors propose to take to implement their strategy can be summarised as follows:

  • To continue to promote all aspects of the welfare of the Brothers;
  • To continue to maintain the highest standards of care in the Infirmary;
  • To continue to provide income to support bursaries for Charterhouse School;
  • To maintain and enhance public access to the Charterhouse.

Public use of Charterhouse Square

The fenced area in Charterhouse Square is part of the private Charterhouse estate, and it is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday.  The Charterhouse has an arrangement with Charterhouse Square school to allow supervised play for the children during set times. The Charterhouse has a permit to use the Square for up to 12 licenced private events per year.  The Charterhouse also collaborates with various partners to host public events e.g. concerts, outdoor theatre etc throughout the year.  Permission must be requested for any corporate photography or commercial business (e.g. personal training, sport etc) – please apply to our Events team.

Can I volunteer at the Charterhouse?

We would love to hear from potential volunteers, and for more information please visit the Volunteering page.

Can I attend the chapel services?

All our services held in the Chapel are open to the public, and outside of opening hours our gatekeeper will be happy to admit anyone who would like to attend. Find out more about our services by visiting the Chapel page.

Learning FAQs