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Hidden London

The garden in the historic Charterhouse Square has just been refurbished and opened to the public for the first time. And there’s a new London museum to be explored there too.

Above: The Charterhouse

The Charterhouse, near Smithfield Market, is one of London’s most intriguing historic sites. When it was a monastery, Henry VIII had 18 of its monks hanged and quartered, making them martyrs. When it was a manor house, Queen Elizabeth I briefly lived here. When it was a school, William Thackeray and John Wesley both studied here.

If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. The Charterhouse has kept its doors mostly closed and its profile low for hundreds of years. Even the huge garden square out front has, until now, been open to key holders only. The institution’s main purpose is the same as it has been since the 1600s – to be an almshouse for retired artists, musicians and writers.

But the Charterhouse has recently started to embrace its other important role – as a beautiful heritage site. Since November, parts of the ornate buildings have been open to the public on a daily basis. There’s a new museum, a new learning centre, a new programme of tours and a new café, Thackeray’s at the Charterhouse.

People have been flocking to this long off limits historical gem. ‘We’ve had over 14,000 visitors in less than three months,’ says Ann Kenrick, the current Master of the Charterhouse. ‘All the tours (so far) have been completely booked up. So I think it’s only going to get busier in the summer months.’

The square itself has been thoroughly renovated and replanted and is now open to everyone for several hours each day. On the day we dropped by for a sneak peak, gardeners were busily putting in the last of the plants and laying protective sheeting in readiness for the official opening by the Queen and Prince Phillip.

Above: Charterhouse Square

The new café at the Charterhouse has been designed to be appealing to people who work and live in the area as well as offering sustenance to tour-goers and museum visitors. ‘I’m personally really excited about the café because we appreciate that you have to get it right and you have to go for top quality ingredients,’ Ann Kenrick says. The in-house Charterhouse chef has created a food menu loosely based on the traditional English fare the brothers are served every day. There’s a daily selection of cakes, including high quality gluten free options. The coffee is from Hackney based artisanal coffee roaster Climpson & Sons.

Helical is a proud supporter of the ‘Revealing the Charterhouse’ project.

Above: We’ve redeveloped 25 Charterhouse Square,, in partnership with The Charterhouse.