Charterhouse Public School

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Charterhouse (originally, Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse) is a famous British independent school for boys, between Hurtmore and Godalming in the county of Surrey.

Founded by Thomas Sutton in London in 1611 on the site of the old Carthusian Monastery in Charterhouse Square, Smithfield (see Charterhouse), it is one of the original nine English public schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868. Today, pupils are still referred to as Carthusians, and ex-pupils as Old Carthusians or OCs.

Charterhouse is one of Britain's most expensive schools with boarding and tuition fees of £26,100 per annum.


The school was moved to its present site in 1872 by the then headmaster, the Revd. Dr. Haig Brown — a decision influenced by the findings of the Public Schools Commission of 1864.[1]

The school bought a 68-acre (270,000 m²) site atop a hill just outside Godalming. In addition to the main school buildings (designed by architect Philip Charles Hardwick), they constructed three boarding houses, known as Saunderites (once the headmaster's house, pronounced "sarnderites" rather than "sornderites"), Verites and Gownboys (for scholars, who were entitled to wear gowns).

As pupil numbers grew, other houses were built alongside the approach road, now known as Charterhouse Hill. Each was titled with an adaptation of the name of their first housemaster, such as Weekites, Daviesites and Girdlestoneites. The last of these is still referred to as Duckites, reflecting the unusual gait of its original housemaster, even though he retired well over 100 years ago. There are now the original four 'old' houses plus seven 'new' houses, making eleven boarding houses in total. The eleven Houses have preserved a unique identity (each with its own tie and colours) and pupils compete against each other in both sports and the arts.

The school continued to expand over the 20th century. Further land was bought to the north and west, increasing the grounds to over 200 acres (809,000 m²), and a new school chapel was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (perhaps best known for designing the red telephone box) and consecrated in 1927 to commemorate almost 700 pupils who died in the First World War, making it the largest war memorial in England. Around 350 names have been subsequently added to commemorate those who died in the Second World War and other conflicts of the twentieth century. Pupils still attend a short chapel service there five times a week.

Charterhouse was all male until the 1970s when girls were first admitted in the sixth form (the final two years), and this continues to be the case today. Of over 300 sixth formers today, almost a third are girls.

The most significant addition to the campus was seven new Houses, built in the 1970s, replacing late Victorian boarding houses which were demolished in 1977. Other newer buildings include the Art Studio, the John Derry Technology Centre, the Ben Travers Theatre, the Ralph Vaughan Williams Music Centre, the Halford Hewitt Golf Course, the Queen’s Sports Centre, the Sir Greville Spratt athletics track and Chetwynd, a hall of residence for girls. In 2003, the School renovated its onsite Library. 2006 saw the opening of The Beveridge Centre for the Social Sciences. In 2007 a new state of the art £3m Modern Languages building was completed.

Modern day

Today, pupils can take part in a wide range of sporting activities, including football, hockey, cricket, cross-country, tennis, fives, fencing, racquets, swimming, squash, water polo, horse riding, sub-aqua, basketball, shooting, badminton, rugby union, and climbing. The 2005 first XI football team also performed extremely well, having an unbeaten season, barring a solitary defeat in the ISFA Cup. Cricket also continues to flourish and Charterhouse is famed for having one of the best batting tracks in the South of England. The school produced one of England's finest batsmen and captains in history, Peter May.

The school first XI of the year 2006-7 managed to reach the ISFA cup final, losing narrowly on penalties after a one all draw with rivals Hampton. Also, one year later, the school first XI again qualified for the the ISFA cup final. Because of weather conditions, it was decided that the match will be played on one of Charterhouse's pitches. The team won this match on penalties.

Charterhouse is one of the elite public schools in Britain. It has excellent examination results with over 76% of pupils awarded an A* or A grade at GCSE and a top 60 placing in the A level league tables.

Martin Bicknell, the former Surrey and England seam bowler joined the school as head of cricket following his retirement from the sport in 2006.

Charterhouse and the origins of football

Charterhouse has an historic joint claim to having founded Association Football, which remains the main Winter sport at the school. During the 1840s at both Charterhouse and Westminster School pupils' surroundings meant they were confined to playing their football in the cloisters, making the rough and tumble of the handling game that was developing at other schools such as Rugby impossible, and necessitating a new code of rules. During the formulation of the rules of the Association Football in the 1860s representatives of Charterhouse and Westminster School pushed for a passing game, in particular rules that allowed forward passing ("passing on"). Other schools (in particular Eton College and Harrow) favoured a dribbling game with a tight off-side rule. By 1867 the Football Association had chosen in favour of the Charterhouse and Westminster game and adopted a "loose" off-side rule that permitted forward passing.[2] The modern forward-passing game was a direct consequence of Charterhouse and Westminster Football.

In the early years of the FA Cup, teams formed of ex-pupils from these schools dominated the competition. The Old Carthusians F.C. (the name for the team comprised of Charterhouse alumni) won the cup in the 1880/81 season, beating the Old Etonians in the final, and were semi-finalists in the two years that followed. The public school system also provided many of the first England internationals. They included Charles Wreford-Brown, who is often credited for inventing the word ‘soccer’. He was a pupil at Charterhouse in the early 1880s, and played football for the Old Carthusians and for the national side in the 1890s, including several appearances as captain.


There are four old houses and seven new houses in White List (a directory of names) order. They are all distinguished by the colour of the pupils' ties, umbrellas and football team's strips (except Lockites, who have gold on their ties).

The four old houses are

  • Saunderites - Orange
  • Verites - Silver, black and blue
  • Gownboys - Dark Red (Gownboys was historically the Scholars house meaning its members could wear Gowns)
  • Girdlestonites - Silver

Girdlestonites is often referred to as Duckites. This name is reputed to derive from a nickname for Mr Girdlestone, the first housemaster of Girdlestonites, who was said to walk like a duck.

The seven "new" houses are:

  • Lockites - Light Green
  • Weekites - Light Red
  • Hodgsonites - Blue
  • Daviesites - Dark Green
  • Bodeites - Old Gold
  • Pageites - Lilac (As distinguished from the pink in the official school colours)
  • Robinites - Purple

All of the houses are short-handed to their first letter for the inter-house postal system, but Gownboys uses a 'G' and Girdlestonites a 'g', but on the school's computer system it is referenced to as 'X'.

The four old houses have been around since the original founding of the school. Saunderites is named after its first Housemaster Mr. Saunders and it was the Headmaster's house, in that the headmaster would not only run the school but one of the houses. Unfortunately the dramatic increase in the size of the school, and the increasing difficulties in running such a school have meant that the Headmaster can no longer do this. Gownboys was originally named not after a Mr. Gown but after the fact that Gownboys was the scholars' house, scholars wearing gowns as their uniform and treated as superior to other boys. That tradition is no longer so, and the scholars are now distributed throughout the various houses, on a random but numerically equal basis. There are still scholars in Gownboys, but in no greater proportion than any other house. Verites was founded by an Oliver and Girdlestonites by a Mr. Girdlestone.

All new Houses apart from Bodeites are named after their founders. Bodeites was originally Buissonites, named after the Head of Languages at the time. He ran off with the matron, and so was renamed Bodeites after the replacement, Mr Bode.[3]

Memorial Chapel

Memorial Chapel, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and consecrated in 1927, and commemorates Carthusians who died in action: 700 in the Great War and 350 in World War II. The whole School meets here five days each week for a short service at 8:45 am, and on Sundays for Evensong, Matins, or a School Eucharist. On Sundays, when there is an Evening service, Roman Catholic pupils may instead attend Mass in the Founder's Chapel. Parents are welcome at Sunday services, but tickets are required for Remembrance Sunday and the Carol Service.

Friday morning chapel is reserved for congregational singing practice, and Wednesday morning chapel is voluntary. Attendance at all other chapel services are compulsory, except where individual exemptions are granted on religious grounds.

Chapel provides a variety of worship experience: enthusiastic hymn-singing; a good standard of congregational Psalm chanting; the choir performing a repertoire of fine Church Music to a high standard; the hushed, reflective atmosphere of Candle-lit Carols; the quiet intimacy of a Eucharist in Millennium Chapel; the solemnity of Remembrance Sunday with the sounding of The Last Post and The Silence.

Each year there is a Confirmation Service in Late January and pupils from any year group except the Fourths (who hadn't been at the school when it was open to sign up) can be prepared for this.



  • Under School

The Lower School consists of the first three years of attendance at Charterhouse, being the Fourth Form, the Removes and the Fifth Form. Pupils in Lower School wear a weekday uniform consisting of a white or blue shirt, house tie, grey trousers, blue jumper, tweed jacket and leather shoes. Sunday dress consists of a dark evening suit of pinstriped or plain design. A waistcoat is optional. Variations include various society and school honours' ties.

Transition from the Lower School to the Upper School occurs upon successful completion of the GCSE exams (formerly known as 'O-Levels').

  • Specialists ('The Upper School')

The Specialists (Lower and Upper Sixth Forms) constitute the last two years of attendance at Charterhouse, and form the Upper School. Having completed the GCSE exams successfully, 'First & Second Year Specialists' (as they are colloquially referred) spend two years studying for their 'A-Level' examinations, usually in three subjects, although brighter students will read for four or five.

Specialists have their own variations on School Dress. Instead of a tweed jacket, Specialists wear a navy blue blazer with gold or blue buttons on the sleeves. Sunday dress remains the same as in the Lower School. Historically, those in Gownboys were permitted to wear gowns as a mark of their scholarly status, but this is no longer permitted, as Gownboys is not the only house in which scholars reside. Specialists may also wear pink shirts and silver or nickel cuff-links.

Whether in Lower or Upper School, any pupil who has been awarded his House or School 'Colours' for sport or culture, may wear his 'Colours' tie in place of his house tie. School monitors may also wear their monitor tie instead of a house tie, if they so choose. For further on this, please see below, under "School Honours".

  • Summer Dress

During Cricket Quarter, the school uniform can vary slightly from that of the two preceding terms. Boys may wear cravats in house colours instead of ties and are permitted to wear straw Boaters similar to the 'Harrow Hat' found at Harrow School, but these are almost never worn. Boys in the Under School may also wear navy blazers similar to those worn by the Specialists. As well as these variations, boys may roll up their sleeves in hashes unless asked not to by a beak.

Members of the 1st XI Cricket Team have their own variation on summer dress which is described later in the article.

  • School Honours

School Honours is the Colours system rewarding pupils in various fields with variations on school dress. They are as follows

House Colours - House colours are a variation on the house tie. Colours awarded for house sport prowess have thicker stripes in the House colour, whereas those awarded for cultural prowess have thin doubled striped.

School Colours - School colours are awarded for services to School sport, culture and other areas deemed worthy. They all have a similar design and are covered in Sutton's Crests (The crest of Thomas Sutton). However, they come in varying colours:

The Head of School: The Head of School (head boy) is permitted to wear a Pink tie ordained with Sutton Crests, sometimes reversed. 1st XI Major Sports: Members of the 1st Team in major school sports (Football, Hockey and Cricket) are permitted to wear Maroon ties. Minor Sports: Holders of colours in Minor Sports are permitted to wear a silver tie covered in Sutton Hospital Crests. Academic/Scholars: Holders of Academic or Scholars colours are permitted to wear a Cambridge Blue tie or bow tie with Sutton Crests. Culture: Those deemed worthy enough in cultural fields are permitted to wear a purple tie. Service: Brown ties are awarded for commendable service to the school community. Most frequently they are awarded by the CCF.

1st XI Cricket

Members of the 1st XI Cricket team are permitted to wear Pink Blazers with Sutton's Crest on the front pocket to Hashes on match days (usually Saturdays).


Ever year a few Carthusians are given Greyhound awards for outstanding service to the school. Those awarded the prize are permitted to wear a navy blue tie with rampant gold greyhounds.


One of the traditions in Charterhouse is the singing of school songs. In the vein of the "Eton Boating Song", many were written by teachers such as William Haig Brown and Old Carthusians such as Ralph Vaughan Williams. It is the tradition to sing Jerusalem on the last Chapel service of term.


Carthusian Day is the main social event of the school calendar. It is held on day preceding the Exeat in CQ and Sunday dress is worn. The day is intended for the Old Carthusians and the parents of Carthusians to visit the school. Speeches are made and Sports events played: including the annual Football, Cricket and Gold matches between Carthusians and Old Carthusians. It also gives parents the chance to see their sons' and daughters' work (such as the traditional Archives project done by Fourths on old Carthusians killed in World War I)

Founder's Day is celebrated every year to commemorate the founding of the school and to thank the founder and benefactor Thomas Sutton. It is considered one of the most important days of the year and is held on the last day of OQ. The day consists of 'clearing up' in houses before 'Founders Feast', a large feast for the whole school where Black Tie is worn. The feast is followed by games and activities. However, the event is also well known for its large reputation for 5ths playing pranks on 4ths (except in several houses).

St. Andrew's Day is celebrated by an annual ball hosted by the historical 'Scottish Dancing society. On St. Andrews Day pupils are permitted to wear traditional Scottish dress including a Kilt, Ghillies and a Sporran.

'The 50 Mile Walk' is an annual event for the 1st Year specialists held at the end of CQ. It consists of walking a 50 mile stretch from Brighton to the Brooke Hall arch and taking regular Hashes the next day. The March originates from the 1950s when the American Navy Seals challenged the School, saying that only they could walk 50 miles and go to work the next day. Those who complete the walk in less than 24 Hours are awarded a special '50' tie which until 2006 consisted of a tie with a few different colours and a 50 on it. The current tie is a thickly striped affair in Pink (for the school), Green (for the countryside) and Blue (for the night)

Leavers Day is the last day of CQ when the Second Year Specialists come to the end of their school careers. After the Leavers Chapel, the entire school does 2 lap around 'Green' while several men dressed in Scottish traditional Scottish dress play the bagpipes. The leaving Second Year Specialists do an extra lap signifying their loyalty to the school.

'Lack of Talent' is an annual show of Carthusian musical talent and sketches run entirely by pupils and held in the BTT during the start of LQ. It is usually hosted by a two second year Specialists and acts are selected by a panel of pupils in the Second Year Specialists. Such acts are predominantly music based, however comedy sketches have become increasingly popular with many off the staff looking forward to the Brooke Hall parody sketch that has become a regular feature. It is one of the few productions in the school's theatre that students and visitors have to pay a fee to see, this fee has usually gone to charity.


Monitors are chosen pupils who are deemed to have the best qualities in leadership and achievement. Each house has at least one monitor, who is appointed Head of House (the most senior pupil in house). On a school-wide level one monitor is appointed the Head of School, and a deputy is appointed to assist. Monitors may wear Navy blue ties and Navy scarves with an embroidered crest. Monitors are also permitted to ride bikes to and from hashes as well as out of Hash time.

The Essay Soc

The Headmaster's Essay Society, also known as the 'House Apostles' is a historical society of twelve elite Carthusians deemed to be the most intellectual in the school. They are invited by the Headmaster to present papers on chosen subjects on Monday evenings and meetings are held in the Headmaster's House. All members wear Cambridge Blue Academic ties or scarves.

Calling Over

In the traditional ceremony of Calling Over, the form master presents his class to the Master of the Under School, who praises those who have shown good effort, and encourages the less hard-working to greater endeavour. Specialists are also awarded regular grades for attainment and effort, which are scrutinised by the Master of the Specialists. Parents receive detailed reports at the end of each Quarter, and have a formal opportunity to meet their son’s or daughter’s teachers every year to discuss progress. The Higher Education and Careers Department provides guidance and training throughout the process of selecting and applying to university.

Notable Old Carthusians

Former pupils are referred to as Old Carthusians, and current pupils as Carthusians.

Victoria Cross holders

Three Old Carthusians have won the Victoria Cross:


  1. School History Web Page
  2. Marples, Morris. A History of Football, Secker and Warburg, London 1954, page 150
  3. A History of Bodeites

See also

External links

  1. School History Web Page
  2. Marples, Morris. A History of Football, Secker and Warburg, London 1954, page 150
  3. A History of Bodeites