Beauvale was the third Carthusian Priory to be founded in England in 1343. It is situated in beautiful countryside which befits its title.
Although only the ruins remain, it is still a picturesque site.
Sir Nicholas de Cantelupe, Lord of the Manor of Greasley, obtained permission from Edward III to found and finance a Priory accommodating
a prior and twelve monks of the Carthusian Order in his park at Greasley. The Foundation Charters were witnessed and signed in 1343 by many
eminent guests of Sir Nicholas, including the Archbishop of York who was his cousin, the Bishops of Durham, Lincoln and Litchfield, the
Earls of Derby, Northampton and Huntingdon, Sir John Grey, Sir William Deincourt and Sir William de Grey of Sandiacre. Also present
were William, son and heir of Sir Nicholas and his grandson, another Nicholas. Mentioned in the charters were Edward III, Nichalas' wife
Joan, his deceased wife Tiphany and his parents and ancestors.
The Charterhouse was dedicated to God, the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The monks were granted 300 acres of land and further
land and properties generating rents in the villages of Greasley and Selston. Later Charters added further to their properties.
Sir Nicholas had already “builded for them” temporary shelter in his park lands at his own cost and promised to build at his own cost
a 'fit church and houses sufficient for a prior and twelve monks' with an endowment to the value of £100 per year. He also gave them permission
to quarry stone from his land and marl for marling or fertilising their land.
Life was tranquil for 200 years with little contact with the outside world. The Beauvale Priory was far from being prosperous and
the monks struggled to survive. The Carthusians were known as Christ's poor men.
This comparative peaceful lifestyle was disrupted with the upheaval of the Reformation.
Beauvale is distinguished by two of its priors, St John Houghton & St Robert Lawrence, who were the first martyrs of the Reformation.
The Carthusian Order was formed in 1084 by St Bruno. It followed the Benedictine Rule but it differed from most other orders in that the monks
led a hermetical lifestyle, living in individual cells apart from communal worship. St Bruno insisted that the order was purely contemplative. The
order was very strict, and the monks were greatly respected for their austere way of life. Their days were spent in silent prayer, silence being
observed at all times. Their diet was barely adequate with long periods of fasting. Although the rules on fasting have been revised, still today
the Carthusians lead a spartan life. Today the order is represented in England by St Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster in Surrey. This was built
The contemplative life is not for the faint hearted or for those seeking only to escape from the 'real world'.
It entails giving your whole life to God and an absolute belief in the power of prayer.
Beauvale Priory should correctly be named Beauvale Charterhouse. In England charterhouses take their name from the site of the first Carthusian site
at Chartreuse (France) the name being derived from the French term, 'isolated country house'.
St Bruno was born in Cologne in Germany around 1030, although he was French in both 'temperament and upbringing'. After many years as a priest
he retreated to a remote valley in the Alps near Grenoble, where, with a few companions, he lived in hermetical community. His solitude was
ended when he was summoned to Rome to be confessor to pope Urban. Bruno eventually returned to his preferred way of life and began a second
hermit community in Calabria where he stayed until his death in 1101.
More information on St Bruno may be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia
St John Houghton
John Houghton was born in Essex in 1487. Educated at Cambridge University, John graduated with degrees in civil and Canon law in around 1506.
Against his parents’ wishes, he was ordained and served as a parish priest for four years.
He soon felt drawn to the Carthusian order and entered the Carthusian novitiate in London where he was professed in c. 1516. He served as
sacristan until 1531 when he became Prior of Beauvale. However, after only six months, he returned as Prior of the London Charterhouse just
before the storm of the Reformation broke in England.
John was known for his holiness, love of the Divine Office, self-discipline, and firm but sensible handling of those working under him in the
St Robert Lawrence
Little is known of Robert Lawrence apart from the details of his death. His birthplace is unknown although it is believed that he could have
come from a Dorset family. He may have served as chaplain to the Duke of Norfolk and is likely to have spent time as a monk at the London
Charterhouse. He succeeded John Houghton as Prior of Beauvale in 1531.
The problem caused by King Henry VIII’s efforts to achieve a lawful marriage to Ann Boleyn led to a complete break with Rome, as the Pope
would not sanction a divorce with Catherine of Aragon. In 1534, all clergy were required to sign the Act of Succession declaring that Henry’s
marriage to Anne was lawful and that her children would be the rightful heirs to the throne. On refusing to sign, John Houghton, with some
of his fellow monks, was detained in the Tower of London for a month. He then agreed to take the oath with the compromise clause, “as far as
the law of Christ allows” added. He realised, however, that this was merely a respite. By February 1535 all loopholes were closed as
Parliament declared that everyone had to take the Oath of Supremacy, declaring Henry to be Supreme head of the Church of England. Refusal
to do so was an act of treason.
Prior Robert Lawrence together with Prior Augustine Webster of Axholme in Lincolnshire travelled to London to discuss events with Prior
John Houghton. Following three days of prayer, they contacted Thomas Cromwell to seek exemption from having to take the oath for themselves
and the monks under them, but were denied outright and thrown into the Tower of London. Brought to trial in April 1535, the jury, after much
persuasion from Cromwell, reluctantly found the three men guilty of treason.
They were to be executed at Tyburn, along with two others who refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy, on 4th May 1535. Their departure was
witnessed by Thomas More, himself imprisoned in the Tower. He remarked to his daughter, “Lo, dost thou not see Meg, that these blessed fathers
be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriage?” They were tied on hurdles and dragged through the streets
John Houghton, the first to face the scaffold, was offered a pardon if he denied the Pope’s authority. He addressed the crowd, forgave his
executioner and requested time to pray. After reciting the first six verses of Psalm 30, he was hung, drawn and quartered. His last words as
his entrails were torn out were, “O most holy Jesus, have mercy on me in this hour” and as his heart was pulled from him, “Good Jesu, what
will you do with my heart?” His body was then decapitated and quartered before being plunged in a cauldron of burning pitch to preserve the
body as a warning to others. The others died with equal bravery.
On 25th October 1970 these pro-martyrs together with 37 other English Martyrs of the Reformation were canonised. St John Houghton and St Robert
Lawrence’s feast days are observed on May 4th, the anniversary of their martyrdom.