The Gownboy Arch

Object 79 in our Charterhouse in 100 Objects series is The Gownboy Arch.

The Gownboy Arch is located between the South African Cloister and Founder's Court at the end closest to Gownboys.

Should an architectural feature be described as an ‘object’? Perhaps not, but the Gownboy Arch has been included in the Charterhouse in a 100 Objects series because it is of such significance in the history of the School: the stone archway was originally the external doorway from Scholars’ Court in London into the old Gownboys hall, until a 19th century building extension hemmed it in as an internal archway.

Coloured etching by C.W. Radclyffe of the Schoolmaster's house (left) and Gownboys from Scholars' Court in 1844, with the Gownboy Arch (far right). 

Generations of foundation scholars (known as ‘Gownboys’ because they wore black academic gowns) paid to have their names carved on the stonework. When the School moved from London to Godalming in 1872, the archway was taken down, stone by stone, and reconstructed on the new School site; eleven of the stones had to be removed to fit the arch into its new location. Merchant Taylor’s School, who took over the old buildings, were not impressed to find a gaping hole in the hall doorway and had to be paid compensation!

A later illustration of the Gownboy Arch before its removal from London. Pen and ink-wash by Struan Robertson, Art Master.