The Charterhouse Project: An Introduction

For the first three weeks of March a team from University of Leicester Archaeological Services will be working in partnership with Historic Coventry Trust, Coventry City Council and Historic England to learn more about Coventry’s Carthusian Monastery – St. Anne’s Charterhouse.

The monument is situated alongside the River Sherbourne, just outside the city centre, and contains three Listed Buildings: the Charterhouse (formerly the refectory of the monastery – Grade I), the monastic precinct wall (Grade II*) and a related 18th-century coach house (Grade II).

The early 15th-century Prior’s House and refectory, altered in the 16th-century with the addition of a timber-framed end.

Charterhouse is an important historical site, one of only 9 Carthusian houses that were established in Britain, and is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (no. 1005901).  The site contains remains of over 600 years of history, with the monastery having been established in the late 14th century, incorporating inner and outer precinct walls, a grand cloister, monk’s cells, a chapter house, a church, laymen’s accommodation and guest rooms as well as a school.  At the time of the dissolution much of the monastery was dismantled and the stone taken away to be reused elsewhere.

The Charterhouse as a private residence in the early 20th century.

The prior’s house and refectory survived the dissolution intact and were turned over to residential use in the Elizabethan period, after which it remained a private residence until 1941.  After this the building had a number of different uses, finally becoming part of Coventry City College until 2009.

The ULAS excavation forms part of a wider project funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant that will eventually involve renovation of the Charterhouse, restoration of the walled grounds and creation of a visitor centre within a larger heritage park, all linked to the city via walk and cycle paths.

A reconstruction of the Charterhouse in its heyday as a Carthusian monastery. The focus of the excavation will be on the inner cloister of the monastery (bottom of the image), around which the monk’s cells would have been arranged.

Excavations in the 1980s focused on the church and the eastern row of cells alongside the cloister, but most of the other monastery buildings are yet to be discovered.  The focus of the new archaeological work will be on the inner cloister of the monastery, around which the monk’s cells would have been arranged.  The earlier excavations revealed that below ground foundations of these buildings were remarkably well-preserved, and the aim will be to reveal more information about how they were built, which will help with planned reconstructions of two cells as part of the visitor experience.  Each cell would have comprised a living/working area and a cottage garden, and it is hoped that evidence will be unearthed that will help inform about the lives of the monks that chose Charterhouse as their home and place of worship.

There will be an Open Day on Saturday March 16th when members of the excavation team will give tours of the trenches and answer questions about what has been revealed.

You can also follow the progress of the project on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ulasnews/

Images supplied by the Historic Coventry Trust: https://www.historiccoventry.org.uk/

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