Beauvale Charterhouse, Notts.


The priory church from the south.
The priory church from the south.
Doorway and hatch in cloister alley
Doorway and hatch in cloister alley.

THE Order of Carthusian Monks was founded at La Chartreuse, in Savoy, in 1084, by Bruno, a native of Cologne and Chancellor of the Cathedral at Rheims. Their Rule is the most strict of all the Religious Orders which sprang from the Benedictines; isolated from the world, almost even isolated from each other in silence within the walls of their monasteries (called in England Charterhouses), they mapped out every hour of their day with its proper occupation of prayer, meditation, or labour.

Nicholas de Cantilupo, 17 Edward III., founded a Carthusian monastery in honour of the Blessed Trinity, for a prior and twelve monks, at Beauvale, in Nottinghamshire, the Charter of Foundation being dated 9 December, 1343.

The connection of the family of Cantilupe with the county of Nottingham began with Nicholas, the grand­father of the founder,1 who became lord of the manors of Greseley and Ilkeston, through his marriage with Eustachia, sister and heiress of Hugh Fitz-Ralph. His fine effigy, in surcoat and chain-mail with shield bearing the Cantilupe arms, is in the chancel of the Church of St. Mary, at Ilkeston.

His grandson, Nicholas, a friend and companion of Edward III., obtained leave to fortify his house at Greseley in 1341, and a few years later, to found a Charterhouse there. At his own home, in these perilous times, not long before the battle of Crecy, he would provide that prayer should be continually offered, for the glory of God, for the welfare of his king and archbishop, for the souls of his father and mother and first wife Typhonia, and for himself and his wife Joan, at the “Pulchra vallis in parco de Greseleye.”

In point of time, the Beauvale Charterhouse was the third of the nine houses of the Carthusian Order established in England. Of the two earlier Charterhouses, both in Somersetshire, there is nothing now remaining at Witham (1180), and but little at Hinton (1227). A good deal is known of the London Charterhouse (1371), but that at Mount Grace, in Yorkshire (1398), is the only one in England where all the peculiar arrangements of the Order can be seen; and a comparison of the remains at Mount Grace with those at Beauvale now to be described, is of great interest.

Plate II. General view of the ruin from the north-west.
Plate II. General view of the ruin from the north-west.

Beauvale Charterhouse is situated in a pleasant valley falling to the west, in the parish of Greasley, nine miles north-west from Nottingham. It stands upon an artificially levelled site, with a wooded hill rising on the north. With the exceptions of the gatehouse and the eastern precinct wall, parts of the north and south walls of the church, and a square building three storeys in height and attached to the south-west angle of the church, little now remains above ground, and that little is in­corporated in modern farm buildings. (Plate II.)

In May, 1908, permission was given by Lord Lucas and Lady Desborough to the Thoroton Society, to excavate the site, with the object of ascertaining the plan of the monastic buildings. This was no easy task, because the place has for a long period served as a  quarry for building materials. Moreover, the mediaeval builders paid but little attention to foundation work; no squared stones were put in below the ground level, and in some cases there was only a line of rough rubble masonry to measure to. The difficulty of the task was further increased by the fact that a great accumulation of debris had to be cleared away before the foundations were reached.

The buildings occupied a rectangular area, 470ft. from east to west, and 290ft. from north to south, surrounded by a wall, now only remaining on the east side. This part of the wall is continued 115ft. further south, and joins the gate-house block, which forms the south side of a smaller rectangular extension, giving an L-shape to the whole area.


The gate-house stands at the south-east corner, and gave entrance by an archway on either side with plain double chamfers carried to the ground. Both arches have disappeared from above the springers, and the openings are now walled up; the west wall of the gate-house, with a door in the middle, remains, but the east wall has been entirely removed. The gate-house is flanked by two rooms, each 20ft. square, and divided into two bays by a large beam that has curved braces and supports an upper floor. The whole upper storey is gone, and perhaps consisted only of half-timber lofts, to which access was gained by an external flight of stone steps at the western end. The eastern room has a small window in the outer wall near to the entrance, which probably indicates the position of the porter's lodge, and two small windows and a doorway in the inner wall. The western room (the guest house) has a three-light square-headed window in the outer wall, and a small loop in the inner wall.

The gate-house range certainly extended further west than the existing remains, apparently with stables or storehouses running at right angles, and forming with the precinct wall a small quadrangular court within the gate. Modern farm buildings now occupy the site of it.

The eastern precinct wall runs northwards from the end of the gate-house range for nearly 400ft. It is 33ins. thick and 8ft. high, capped with flat stones, and has putlog holes, about lift, apart, passing through the wall. About 85ft. from the gate-house end there was an opening for a large gateway, now used as the entrance to the farm, but only one jamb remains. Some soft, further on there is a small doorway with chamfered jambs, the purpose of which may have been to lead to the large fish-pond just outside the wall.

(1) The Registrum Prioratus de Greseley sive Bella Valle of Prior Wartre (Brit. Mus. Add. MS., 6060) gives a curious genealogical account of the founder’s family.