Stephen McGhee (centre), a Brother of the Charterhouse who loves opera, travel, poetry and art.
“No day is exactly the same for me,” explains Brother Stephen McGhee, who is chatting to me in his flat in the Admiral Ashmore building. “Some of it is governed by routine of meals, but two days a week I go to the gym at the nearby Golden Lane Estate and once a month there’s the poetry evening and the reading group. I make a point of trying to get out. I enjoy walking, so I walk to, say, the West End or wherever it is I’m going. If it’s a rainy day I might visit a museum or art gallery or a lunchtime concert, and if it’s a sunny day I might take the train to Richmond or Epping Forest. Sunday mornings are taken up by chapel and going down to Temple Church, which has a superb choir.”
Stephen is incredibly passionate about art, classical music and travel. Before living at the Charterhouse, he spent fourteen years in Thailand teaching at Chulalongkorn University and feeder school next to the campus. Prior to this, he lived in Australia working first with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, then at ABC Classics, which is the Australian Broadcast Corporation’s classical music record label.
“When I retired” he tells me, “I began looking at getting a bedsit in London, but it immediately became impossible to think of renting or buying here. Then I came across the almshouse website, which led me to the Charterhouse. I thought it was a religious house at first, but reading the blurb more carefully I realised that it was not, so I applied and remarkably they offered me a position.”
Stephen became aware of the Charterhouse’s plans to open to the public when he first became a Brother. The Master at the time, Charlie Hobson, held regular meetings with the Brothers, and later added to Stephen to the Development Board, which required him to meet with architects, landscape designers and the curator of the Museum of London.
“The project hasn’t particularly impacted on our privacy, which is a very good thing. I think everybody who is doing the tours are sensitive to respecting the Brothers’ privacy. We are no longer hidden of course. I recall coming back from Australia a few weeks ago, feeling rather low, suffering from sickness and jet lag, and coming along Charterhouse Street and seeing that the square was filled with people, young and old. I found that very moving. I thought to myself, We’ve arrived.”