Hidden Lives: A History of Women, the London Charterhouse and the Wider Community

Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at the University of Oxford, in partnership with the London Charterhouse.

This fully-funded studentship is available from October 2024. Further details about the value of an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP award are available on the DTP’s studentships page

Closing Date: 5 January 2024.

Project overview

This doctoral project focuses on the Charterhouse, a former Carthusian monastery and living heritage site in London. It explores women’s involvement in the history of the Charterhouse and wider community, with a particular focus on the medieval and early modern periods. The project seeks to establish the relationship of women to the Charterhouse in its various incarnations as a monastery, mansion, school and almshouse, from their contributions to the development and day-to-day running of the site to its social life, culture and physical fabric.

The history of the Charterhouse stretches back to 1371, when the Carthusian monastery was first founded. Since the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century the site has served as a private mansion, a boys’ school, and an almshouse founded by Thomas Sutton, which it remains to this day. Residents of the almshouse are known as ‘Brothers’, which is a purely traditional term acknowledging the Charterhouse’s monastic past. In 2017, the first admission of women as Brothers of the almshouse community and the appointment of the first female master and preacher in 400 years marked a pivotal moment in the foundation’s history. Women, however, have played a much longer, ‘unofficial’ role in the site’s history in various guises: prominent examples include Elizabeth I’s holding of Privy Council meetings in the Great Chamber and the presence of masters’ wives as residents from 1761 onwards, yet the stories of many others have yet to be recovered and told.

The project will explore the multi-faceted ways in which women have contributed to the history and life of the Charterhouse and the wider community. As such, the doctoral project will be the first scholarly study of the women’s historical relationships to this unique heritage site. There is now a substantial body of scholarship on women’s contributions to ‘male’ institutions throughout history, as lay visitors and pilgrims to monasteries, as informal educators and administers of care for the sick, and as patrons and donors. The project will seek to situate the Charterhouse within this broader historiography, and to identify patterns and peculiarities in how women have historically interacted with the site.

The successful candidate will adopt an interdisciplinary methodology, examining archival evidence held at the London Metropolitan Archives and the National Archives, archival and curatorial collections held in London galleries and museums, and those held on site at the Charterhouse. Through close working with the Charterhouse’s Museum Team, the student will also gain specialist training in archival and curatorial practice, and will have the opportunity to contribute to new interpretation through activities documenting the lives of contemporary female Brothers at the Charterhouse.

As with all doctoral projects, it is understood that the research may develop in directions as yet unforeseen; with regard to where precisely the emphasis falls within the late medieval and/or early modern periods, some flexibility is possible. The project allows scope for the student to explore their own interests, for example how the architecture was designed to preclude or include female involvement; the role of women as visitors and patrons; and the networks of women who were connected to the Charterhouse as inhabitants of the surrounding community.

For more about the life and work of the Charterhouse, see here.


The successful candidate will be jointly supervised by Dr Hannah Skoda and Dr Lucy Wooding, University of Oxford and Peter Aiers, OBE, Master and Chief Executive of the Charterhouse. The student will benefit from regular research visits to the Charterhouse and on-site expertise and training with the Charterhouse’s in-house curatorial team, including opportunities to contribute to the future interpretation and life of the Charterhouse.

How to apply

We invite applications from candidates from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Applicants will ideally have experience of handling archival materials, including proficiency in medieval and early modern palaeography. Applicants should meet the eligibility criteria for Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC studentships.

For an informal discussion about the opportunity and how you might frame your approach to the CDA project, please contact Dr Hannah Skoda(Hannah.skoda@sjc.ox.ac.uk) and Peter Aiers(peter.aiers@thecharterhouse.org), OBE in the first instance.

You should apply to the DPhil in History by 5 January 2024 (midday, UK time), indicate your interest in being considered for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP studentship and submit a completed copy of the OOC DTP Application Form at the same time.