THE FINAL stone has been laid in the major restoration of the ancient walls which protected Coventry’s Carthusian Monastery as part of a multi-million-pound new visitor attraction.
Coun Patricia Hetherton, Cabinet Member for City Services at Coventry City Council, had the honour of completing the restoration of the outer precinct wall at Charterhouse off London Road.
The repair work is part of the £8million scheme that will open later this summer during Coventry’s UK City of Culture year.
The work to restore the monastic wall to its former glory has now been completed by Coventry City Council in partnership with Historic Coventry Trust.
The painstaking restoration by specialist contractor Croft Building and Conservation has used traditional techniques with lime mortar and a large amount of new stone copings to replace those that have deteriorated over the past 600 years.
Ian Harrabin, Chairman of Historic Coventry Trust, described it as another momentous milestone in the history of the Grade I listed building.
He said: “This is really important work as without well repaired copings, the walls would soon deteriorate and it wouldn’t be very long before it looked like Kenilworth Castle.
“Coventry’s Charterhouse follows the format of all other Carthusian monasteries and is set outside what would have been the boundaries of the medieval city and its city walls.
“The city walls were already being built when Charterhouse was founded in 1385.
“Charterhouse was located outside the city to avoid the temptations of wine, women and gambling, therefore needed its own protection in a lawless time with both an outer and inner precinct wall.
“Monasteries were wealthy with large land holdings and rich benefactors and would have had precious items of silver and possibly gold – also books would have been very precious as they were written by hand and elaborately adorned.
“The outer precinct walls were built from 1400 onwards and have survived largely intact to this day extending to 400m in length.
“This is unusual with only once other Carthusian site, Mount Grace Priory within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, having substantial walls remaining.”
The Carthusians were the most pious of all of the monastic orders, with the core group of ‘choir monks’ living in silence and solitude in individual ‘cells’ within the second level of walls – the inner precinct.
They wanted to emulate the lives of the early hermits who went into the desert and lived in caves, to be in solitude and closer to God.
Coun Hetherton, Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for City Services, said: “The precinct walls at Charterhouse are nationally important and I am proud that we’ve been able to put them back in good condition for future generations.
“With over 600 years of history, if walls had ears what a story they could tell – it will be exciting to see this history brought to life through the Trust’s interpretation and education programmes so that the community can understand and enjoy the city’s rich past.
“The council’s bold step of working in close partnership with the Trust has brought vitality and investment to the site which the Council couldn’t have done on its own. I am really looking forward to when it opens to the public later this year.”
When Charterhouse opens to the public, there will also be interactive displays charting the site’s history since its founding by King Richard II in 1385 as well as the recreation of part of the cloister and two monks’ cells set in the walled garden.
Charterhouse, one of Coventry’s oldest buildings, will be the focal point of the new 70-acre Charterhouse Heritage Park along the banks of the River Sherbourne.
Historic Coventry Trust’s £8million restoration of Charterhouse has been a partnership with Coventry City Council and major grants have been secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and several trusts and foundations including Garfield Weston, Wolfson, Foyle and Historic Houses Foundation, Edward Cadbury and AllChurches.