THE THOMAS SUTTON FOUNDATION
Sutton's long cherished wish to found a benevolent institution was realised when he bought Howard House from the Earl of Suffolk. This was built on the site of the fourth English Carthusian Monastery, founded in 1371 by Sir Walter de Manny and the Bishop of London on the outskirts of the City of London. The monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII, though some of the buildings remained. The order of monks who inhabited the monastery were those of La Grande Chartreuse from near Grenoble in France, and the anglicising of their name led to "Charterhouse" being applied to their English monasteries, and this name remained attached to the site in London.
The title of the original foundation was:
The hospital was to be home:
With the hospital was to be built a school for forty "poor" scholars - though in this context the word "poor" merely meant those without the prosperity of substantial estates behind them.
Thus Charterhouse was from the start the province of the professional classes - the sons of doctors, lawyers, clergy - rather than the landed gentry.
Sutton had established a Master and a group of Governors for his foundation by the time of his death on December 12th 1611, and the greater part of his vast fortune was bequeathed to the hospital and school, much to the annoyance of his heirs, who contested the will. However, the Governors, who were chosen for being
included the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chancellor (amongst others), who were well able to see that Sutton's intentions were carried out.
After building work had been carried out, Charterhouse opened its doors in 1614. Eighty elderly men were admitted, to be called pensioners, or brothers. Sutton's aim was to allow men who had lived active and useful lives in conditions of prosperity and comfort and who had fallen on hard times through no fault of their own to finish their days in the kind of circumstances to which they had become accustomed.
The forty scholars were to be
They were to be between 10 and 15 years old, and exhibitions were provided at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, those not wishing further education taking apprenticeships. The scholars, who became known as "Gownboys" were supplemented by so-called "town-boys" - commoners accepted from outside the Foundation who applied to go to Charterhouse as its reputation grew.
The school and hospital flourished, although there were difficult times during the Commonwealth due to Parliamentary interference and lack of funds. At the time the Schoolmaster and Preacher were removed from office due to their Royalist sympathies.
Urban expansion in the nineteenth century, and the decline of the area into slum conditions, led to the desire to move the school, and the Public Schools Commission of 1864 recommended a move out of London.
Old Carthusians resisted, but Headmaster William Haig Brown won the day, and in 1872 the school moved to its present site near Godalming in Surrey. This led to the two parts of the foundation being partially separated - each having its own board of Governors.
Part of the London site was sold to Merchant Taylor's School, who in turn sold it, in 1933, to St. Bartholomew's Hospital.
The removal of the school led to a temporary decline in the fortunes of the hospital, the numbers of brothers being reduced. But confidence and stability were renewed by the start of the Great War.
In May 1941 incendiary bombs gutted a large part of Sutton's Hospital. The subsequent rebuilding led to the discovery of the original plan of the Carthusian monastery.
Sutton's Hospital continues to care for its Brothers - who are still, as Sutton intended, military men, schoolmasters, clergy, artists, musicians, writers and businessmen. Each Brother has his own bed-sitting room, now situated in the Tudor building, and there are now some flats.
There is a well-equipped and well-staffed infirmary, and although a Brother has to be in a fair state of health for his age when he enters, he is looked after for the rest of his life if he so wishes even if he becomes ill or infirm.
In 1999 work started on new accommodation for more Brothers, and the foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Edinburgh.
The links between the two Foundations - School and Hospital - remain strong. All new entrants to the school visit the London Charterhouse early in their school career, and many school Houses hold their annual or bi-annual dinner in the Library.
Every September there is a Foundation Lunch - held in either London or Godalming - for the Governors of both Establishments, followed in December by the Founders Day Dinner for OC's.
Further information on Sutton's Hospital is available at www.thecharterhouse.org
- Burial Ground 1349 - 1371
- Carthusian Priory - The London Charterhouse 1371 - 1538
- Tudor Mansion 1545 - 1611
- Almshouse and School founded by Thomas Sutton 1611
The site upon which Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse stands was acquired in the middle of the fourteenth century as a burial ground for the victims of the Black Death. As not all the space was used, a Carthusian Monastery was established here in 1371 by Sir Walter de Mauny (Manny), one of Edward III's senior advisers. A prior and twenty-four monks were accommodated in two-storey houses arranged round a characteristically large cloister, and the church, built alongside the burial ground, became the priory church. Thomas More, 'A man for all seasons', friend of Erasmus and later Henry VIII's Chancellor, frequently visited Charterhouse as a young student, as it was an important centre of ecclesiastical learning.
In 1535, the monks refused to conform to Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy and some were brutally executed at Tyburn. The monastery was suppressed and passed to the Crown. Subsequently it was granted to Lord North, who constructed a fine Tudor mansion which was later sold to the fourth Duke of Norfolk, who further embellished it. On 23 November 1558, Elizabeth I arrived at Charterhouse from Hatfield on the fifth day of her reign and stayed for five days before proceeding to the Tower of London on the way to her coronation in Westminster Abbey. In later years she would return to Charterhouse on at least two other occasions. Upon succeeding to the throne in 1603, James I came to Charterhouse from Edinburgh and held his first council in what is now the Great Chamber.
In 1611 Norfolk's son, Thomas Howard, first Earl of Suffolk, sold the mansion to Thomas Sutton, building Audley End in Essex with the proceeds. Sutton was said to be the wealthiest commoner in England. He had held the post of Master of the Ordnance in the Northern Parts from 1568 to 1594 and his involvement in the coal trade, advantageous property dealings and money lending had enabled him to amass a considerable fortune. He used much of his wealth to endow a charitable foundation to educate boys and care for elderly men, known as 'Brothers'. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, was a pupil at the school in Charterhouse as was William Makepeace Thackeray, in the early nineteenth century. The school was moved to Godalming, Surrey, in 1872, when Robert Baden-Powell was a pupil. The area was divided, though the almshouse continues to this day to occupy the land to the west.
Until 1933, Merchant Taylors' School occupied the site to the east. This area later became The Medical College of St Bartholomew's Hospital and is now occupied by Barts and the The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London.
Sutton's Hospital sustained much damage during the Second World War but was faithfully restored by the architects, Seely and Paget, opening its doors again in 1951.
In 2000 the Admiral Ashmore Building was completed by Hopkins Architects to house fourteen Brothers. The two new buildings restored the southwest corner of Preacher's Court, replacing those lost to bombing in WWII. In 2001, further building work took place in Preacher's Court when a number of offices and garages were converted to create a larger infirmary for the Brothers.