There were twelve Carthusian monasteries (called Charterhouses, an anglicised version of Chartreuse the mother house in France) in the British Isles before the Reformation, the first at Witham, dating from 1181. Saint Hugh of Lincoln was its first prior.
These houses were destroyed and the communities disbanded, some monks being martyred, under Henry VIII. The monastery of St. Hughs realised the return of the Order to England in 1873 at the request of the catholic hierarchy. It was built on a large scale in order to accommodate two communities which were expelled from the continent.
The buildings reproduce the invariable shape of a Charterhouse. It is built to visibly express and practically favour the living of a spiritual ideal, the radical following of Christ. Solitude is assured by the individual hermitages and the surrounding enclosure walls; community life, through the linking of the hermitages to the church and other conventual buildings by the cloister. The soaring tower surmounted by a cross proclaims the upward elevation of the ensemble through Jesus Christ towards God.
Stands the Cross, still point of the turning world. (Carthusian motto)
The community is composed of cloister monks who live a greater solitude and Brothers (converse and donates) who have the same contemplative ideal, while assuming the material tasks of the House. All share in the same liturgical prayer and the solitude of the monastery.