King James I’s London – 4. Charterhouse

The Charterhouse School was founded in 1611 – the seventh year of King James I’s reign – on the site of a former Carthusian monastery in Smithfield.

It owes its creation to Thomas Sutton (1532-1611) who bought the site – which then contained a Tudor mansion – from Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, in 1611, the year of Sutton’s death.

A Yorkshireman, Sutton (who is buried in the chapel in Charterhouse) is said to have been the “wealthiest commoner in England” at the time, having made a fortune after discovering coal. He used his resources to endow a school and an almshouse on the site.

Among the school’s alumni were John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, and novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.

The school – which is this year celebrating its 400th anniversary – moved to Godalming in Surrey in 1872 and the site was subequently occupied by the Merchant Taylor’s School while the almhouse continued to operate on the western part of the land (it still does today under the name Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse).

The school later became the medical college of the nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital and is now occupied by Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

For more on the Charterhouse, see www.thecharterhouse.org (tours run on Wednesday afternoons at 2.15pm from April until August and cost £10 per person). For more on the Charterhouse School, see www.charterhouse.org.uk.