The Charterhouse Hull
Our noble history over 7 centuries
Way back in 1384, Michael de la Pole planted a tiny seed here in Hull. Next door to the Carthusian monastery he set up an almshouse for 13 men and 13 women with a Priest Master. 7 centuries on, his almshouse is still doing exactly what he wanted. His generosity all those years ago is still bearing fruit to the glory of God and for the wellbeing and flourishing of the Charterhouse community over all this time.
Isn’t it amazing to think – that tiny seed – that act of generosity, care and compassion – has grown into this enormous tree – a community, a family which has Jesus at the centre and heart. Thousands of people through the ages have been touched and helped by this wonderful place and it is a privilege and joy to be part of it. Gathered each week as brothers and sisters, we meet the Risen Lord in his word and sacrament and in our neighbour. Through sharing in this feast of his love and feeding on his body and blood, we become his body and grow to be more like him, reflecting his love and forgiveness in all our encounters and relationships. Because we are set on such a firm foundation – Jesus – this place has sprouted and grown into a great big tree with room enough for everyone, no matter who and what they are. Such a huge diversity of people have found their home here and do so today. Each of us has a valued, honoured and respected place as part of the Charterhouse family. We are not threatened or defensive about difference – instead we celebrate and rejoice in it. Diversity is healthy and we need to embrace it joyfully and positively in the name of Christ. And help others to do this. Everyone here has a story to tell and share – if we listen. Between us we have 2,700 years of life’s experience – no wonder this place is a treasure trove and people want to share our life and hear what makes it so special.
As Dr Marianne Gilchrist says, ‘The story of Hull Charterhouse is a microcosm of the city from the Black Death onwards. It is the interwoven history of 2 house: an almshouse and a monastic estate. It links the lives of their people: wealthy merchants and monks; the many and varied citizens who lived in the almshouses as residents and the Masters and staff who worked there.’
The Carthusian Order was founded by St Bruno, Canon of Rheims Cathedral in Northern France. In 1084 he felt a growing urge to withdraw from the world to serve God with 6 companions. He settled near Grenoble at Grande Chartreuse in the mountains, giving us the English word ‘Charterhouse.’ The monks still make the famous and delicious liquor ‘Chartreuse’ in yellow and green forms – full of alcohol and mountain herbs. This was given traditionally to pilgrims and travellers across the Alps as a tonic and pick-me-up on their long journey to Rome. The Carthusians lived as a community of hermits in silence and solitude in their own little houses with a tiny chapel, bedroom, workroom and a small garden with outside toilet. They were clustered around a square cloister with a Church in the middle which they used for Sunday Mass, saying most of their daily offices and Masses in their own cell. They had a walk and talk together on Sundays too but ate their meals mostly alone – fish, pulses, eggs. They grew vegetables in their own garden and were supplied with bread and beer each day. They lived this austere holy life and were called ‘Christ’s poor men’
Hugh of Avalon – later Bishop of nearby Lincoln – had been Prior of the Carthusian order which had eventually 9 monasteries in England – Witham in Somerset; Hilton near Bath; Beauvale in Nottinghamshire before the 1348 Black Death and 1362 plague. A very depleted population needed the prayers, advice and help of the Carthusians and so London Charterhouse was founded in 1371 followed by Hull in 1378; Coventry; Axholme in Lincolnshire; Mount grace in 1398 and finally the royal Charterhouse at Sheen in 1415.
In every case, the founder – like ours Michael de la Pole – came from the highest levels of society. All the monks came from the literate upper classes – many from Oxford and Cambridge Universities. They built impressive libraries full of their illuminated books. Lots of beautiful spiritual writings came from the Carthusian monks and are still read today.
The Carthusian monastery at Mount Grace in North Yorkshire near Osmotherley off the A19 is the best preserved in the country. It is highly likely that Hull Charterhouse – like all their monasteries – was very similar in layout.
You’ve heard that pop song ‘We built this city on rock and roll’. We built this city on De la Pole! They were rich and prosperous local merchants exporting wool from Yorkshire monasteries and wine and wheat from the fertile East Riding all sent by ship from the great port of Hull. They became very rich, lent money to the King and lived in the gorgeous Suffolk Palace near our Guild Hall. Michael, fulfilling his father William’s wish, founded the Carthusian monastery with a Papal and Royal Charter outside the Northgate of the town beside the River Hull for water. They dedicated it to the honour of God and of his holy mother the glorious Virgin Mary; of St Michael and all angels and of St Thomas Becket, Martyr and Archbishop of Canterbury. It had a Prior and 12 monks like Jesus and his 12 Apostles. Michael gave lots of land in Myton, Hessle, Willerby and in 1384 refounded next door to the Priory a hospital – a set of almshouses or Maison Dieu ‘House of God’ for 13 poor men and 13 poor women to be looked after by a priest to be called Master. I am the 39th! Latest scholarship says we were here before the Priory from at least 1350 but our first official charter was 1384 all decked with Papal seals. The Master and Brothers and Sisters received money, food and clothing and prayed for the King and the living and departed members of the de la Pole family in return. The Maison Dieu was endowed separately with land and property and substantial money. This meant that at the Reformation in the 1530’s when the monastery closed, we stayed and continued the work. 640 years on we are still flourishing, thanks be to God.
The De la Poles, Prior, Mayor of Hull and the Archdeacon of the East Riding worked together to ensure the Maison Dieu flourished and had a good and learned Master. The chest full of silver for the use of the Maison Dieu was kept in the Treasury of the Priory under the custody of the Master, the Prior and the Mayor.
In an old map of Hull you can see the Priory and Maison Dieu surrounded by a wall each. Some of our present garden wall possibly has 14th century bricks made by the De la Pole brickyard nearby. The Church had a square tower with little houses round a quadrangular cloister and the Maison Dieu had 2 Mass chapels founded by Papal permission. Certain of the De la Poles were buried in the monastic Church – now Sykes Street. Some thikn the Church was on the saite of the present artificial limb clinic or further West.
At the Reformation 2 monks James and John form London Charterhouse were imprisoned here and eventually taken to York to be executed for their faith rather than accept Henry VIII as head of the Church. The Priory was dissolved in 1539 and soon afterwards the Hull Corporation took over the patronage of the Hospital called God’s House or Charterhouse. The buildings of the former Priory were given to the Alured family who turned them into a grand house. One of the daughters married Master Andrew Marvell who lived in the Master’s House with his son another Andrew who went to Cambridge University at 12 and became a famous poet and MP for Hull. His father’s sermon book from the 1620’s is in the Hull History Centre and has lovely italic handwriting and quotes in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
All the Charterhouse buildings were blown up in the Civil War in 1643 to prevent them being taken by Royalists and residents and master moved into our property in Silver Street. Have a look – the Charterhouse crest is proudly displayed!
Both hospital and Master’s House were rebuilt on the same site 1649-50 possibly by John Catlyn. His son William was responsible for the new block of rooms on the North side of the lane in 1663 and an adjacent Chapel built 1673. The building on the North side were demolished and the hospital rebuilt in its present form in 1778-80 probably by Joseph Hargrave with a new Chapel with a superb largely unaltered Georgian interior and fittings including a magnificent 10 feet tall pulpit and vaults under the High Altar containing the bodies of former Masters. Exquisite Communion plate dating form the 1780’s is still used each Sunday at 10am when the 36 residents, staff and locals celebrate the Sung Eucharist. Everyone is very welcome every Sunday. The 1660 bell still calls the community together for worship and is rung each day as the Master offers Morning and Evening Prayer.
We give thanks for so many blessing here and the kindness and generosity of those who have gone before; the faithfulness of those who have worshipped here over 7 centuries and keep that tradition alive in our own time; for the care and compassion we all experience so richly in this place as we still fulfil our founder’s wish. Thanks be to God for our Charterhouse. We look forward to welcoming you warmly in the name of Christ over the Heritage Open Days and any Sunday through the year at 10am.
Canon Paul Greenwell, Master
The Charterhouse Hull
The Charterhouse Hull
Tel: 01482 320026
Providing high quality, independent living close to the city centre