Relatives of the last family to live in one of Coventry’s oldest buildings have returned to visit before it opens to the public.
Work is continuing to transform Grade I listed Charterhouse off London Road into a new visitor attraction which is set to officially open next spring.
The former Carthusian monastery is being fully restored and updated by Historic Coventry Trust in partnership with Coventry City Council and the local community.
Photo: Hannah Jones, Charterhouse General Manager, Historic Coventry Trust, with Bill Wyley and his daughter, Emma Major.
Bill Wyley and his daughter, Emma Major, are descendants of Colonel William Fitzthomas Wyley, who was the last person to live at Charterhouse between 1889 and 1940.
Bill said it has been wonderful to have a tour of the building which had such a special meaning to his family. He explained:
“In the late 1930s, my father William Bertram Metcalf Wyley was invited by a cousin, Colonel William Wyley, whose only son, also called William, had died in action in WWI, to join him as owner/director of Wyleys Ltd, a manufacturing and wholesale chemists, based in Coventry.
“Colonel Wyley had been Lord Mayor of Coventry, and he owned and lived in the Charterhouse which he subsequently bequeathed to the city.
“He introduced my dad to Coventry Society including freemasonry and other charitable activities, which later included the role of treasurer of the Warwickshire St John’s Ambulance organisation, and that continued to be important to my dad throughout his life.
“During the bombing of Coventry, my dad was an air-raid warden, and told me that one of his significant memories was of watching Birmingham burning from the roof of the Cathedral, which was then itself burnt-out.
“Following that catastrophic event, Colonel Wyley arranged for one of the crypts to be ‘fitted-out’ as a chapel so that services could continue, which was then named The Wyley Chapel.
“At the end of the war, my father bought a house on Kenilworth Road, where I and my sister, Judith, were
“The Wyleys Ltd business was eventually sold although my dad continued as an employee until he retired and he then moved with my mother to Barford, near Warwick, and then to Upton in Oxfordshire.
“Among papers I inherited from my dad were a number of notebooks relating to the Wyleys Ltd business which I passed on about 10–15 years ago to the Coventry Museum, as of potential interest to city historians.
“It was fascinating to go on a tour of Charterhouse and to see and hear their plans for its future.”
Bill and Emma also met Dr Jon Plumley, Chairman of the Coventry Charterhouse Association, and Dave Griffiths, Chairman of the Charterhouse Residents Association.
Hannah Jones, General Manager at Charterhouse, said Bill and his daughter, Emma, had been invited to return to the official opening next spring.
“It was really interesting to meet Bill and Emma and hear their stories regarding Charterhouse which have been passed down.
“This was their first visit to Charterhouse and although parts of it resemble a building site, Bill found the construction and skilled craft work going on really interesting because his career was in civil engineering.
“It was lovely to meet descendants of Colonel Wyley, who was the last person who lived here, and we will be keeping in touch so that we can share their stories with visitors as well as inviting them to the official opening.”
Charterhouse is the only Carthusian monastery in the country with intact interiors, with three large wall paintings and evidence of further monastic and Elizabethan decoration uncovered during the renovation works.
The new visitor attraction will include interactive displays charting the site’s long history since its founding by King Richard II in 1385, as well as the landscaping of the inner precinct as a beautiful walled garden.
Charterhouse will be the focal point of the new 70-acre Charterhouse Heritage Park along the banks of the River Sherbourne.
Historic Coventry Trust’s £10 million restoration of Charterhouse has been a partnership with Coventry City Council, supported by major grants 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.