Seal of Sir Walter de Manny

Object 76 in our Charterhouse in 100 Objects series is the Seal of Sir Walter de Manny, founder of the London Charterhouse Monastery. 

Walter de Manny first arrived at the English court in 1327 as a young esquire in the retinue of Philippa of Hainault, wife of King Edward III. He was quickly promoted in the King’s service and had a successful military career, fighting in Scotland, the Netherlands and France during the early stages of the Hundred Years War and making his fortune from plunder and ransom money. He then became a leading figure at the court of King Edward III, employed as an ambassador, admiral, and emissary to the Parliament; he was rewarded with a peerage in 1348.

Sir Walter was an administrator, as well as a successful soldier. In 1348, when London’s cemeteries were overwhelmed by many thousands of victims of the Black Death, he took practical action by leasing a 13-acre plot near Smithfield outside the city walls to be used as a burial ground. It was the largest mass grave during this period, containing an estimated 50,000 bodies. Sir Walter added a chapel on the site and eventually bought the land (rather than simply leasing it) so that he could establish a permanent monastery there.

This is a replica of the wax seal affixed to Sir Walter de Manny’s charter of 8 March 1371, founding a house of monks of the Carthusian order, to be called ‘the House of the Salutation of the Mother of God’. The Carthusian monks would offer daily prayers, not only for the plague victims buried there, but for the immortal soul of their founder, an important factor for a pious benefactor who feared divine judgement.

The shield on the seal has three chevrons on it, the device on Sir Walter de Manny’s coat of arms being “Or three chevrons sable” (three black chevrons of bands pointing upwards on a gold background).

Sir Walter died in 1372 and was buried with great ceremony in front of the high altar. His tomb was lost when the monastery was dissolved and the buildings were repurposed, first as a private mansion and then as Thomas Sutton’s charity. Sir Walter’s tomb was re-discovered during restoration work after World War Two and its site can be seen today, marked out in Chapel Court outside the entrance to the London Charterhouse museum.

19th century artist's imaginative depiction of Sir Walter de Manny