On 17th June a small group from the Coventry Society was shown around the Charterhouse to see the progress being made with the Archaeological investigations and the regeneration of the building itself.
After being issued with PPE and a safety briefing we were shown the re-excavation of the monks’ cells, just outside the cloisters. This area had been previously excavated in the 1980s and the area was being re-opened and extended into the garden area behind.
There would originally have been twelve cells. The Historic Coventry Trust is planning to rebuild two cells using the existing archaeological outlines. One will be a cell as it was at the time of the Dissolution and the other will be a modern equivalent, where it will be possible to experience absolute silence.
The Carthusians monks lived as hermits in small two story cells, although there is no evidence here of a staircase or any fire places. It is assumed that the top storey was accessed by a ladder. The monks were bought food from a communal kitchen by the lay brothers, twice a day, but it must have got very cold in winter.
An old well has been re-excavated although it is not certain whether it was a communal well or just shared between two cells.
Some of the original floor tiles have been exposed as has a garden edge formed from tiles on end.
At this point we were hit by a downpour and made a quick retreat to the inside of what would have been the Prior’s lodge.
The main alteration to the buildings is being done in the Victorian extension, where a new kitchen and lift shaft are being installed.
At the other end of the building the medieval timber framed extension is being re-built. The timber frame had been infilled with bricks many centuries ago and the extra weight had damaged the frame, which is now being carefully restored. We were surprised that some of what appeared to be very badly rotted beams were being re-used but oak retains a lot of strength, even in these conditions.
Next we went onto the roof where the roof timbers have been completely exposed and protected by a huge over-roof of steel and plastic. Each roof timber is being carefully adjusted with oak inserts to give the correct fall and to reduce the waviness of the roof. State of the art laser equipment was being used to get the correct alignment of the timbers.
Two chimneys are being re-built and a further one was rebuilt a few years ago. As the correct sized bricks are no longer available some similar sized bricks were being cut down to the correct size to match the existing ones.
From the roof there is a wonderful view of the whole site where new gardens are being created and together with a heated garden wall, the original dating back to the early 18th Century when the land was one of the foremost garden nurseries of the age, growing oranges for stately homes in the county.
Our thanks to the Historic Coventry Trust for the tour. We are hoping that our members will get another opportunity for a tour when restrictions are eased.
The regeneration project at the Charterhouse is being funded by a grant of £4.3 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
There are more photos on our Flickr site.