Francesca Breeden

PhD Title

Communal Solitude: The Archaeology of the Carthusian Houses of the British Isles, 1178-1569

(Co-supervised with Prof. Emilia Jamroziak, University of Leeds)


This thesis examines the eleven charterhouses of the British Isles that existed until 1569. The Carthusian Order was unique in monasticism, as the monks had individual living quarters and spent little time participating in communal worship. The monasteries therefore, are very interesting sites to consider, as their use of contemporary technologies such as water systems had to be designed to function within this odd living situation. Currently, little is understood about the houses other than Mount Grace Charterhouse and the London Charterhouse, both of which have been extensively excavated and much has been published relating to their nature. The PhD topic attempts to redress the imbalance in monastic archaeology where these two houses are studied to the exclusion of all other British and Irish foundations.

The archaeological footprint of the lay brother is also researched in order to learn more about the people who enabled the monastery to continue its eremitic lifestyle, and how they can be identified as archaeologically distinct from their ordained counterparts. This in part involves examining the environs of the Carthusian lay brother and the accessibility of certain persons to areas of the monastery.

Using geophysical data, excavation reports, and historical documents, the study comprises a detailed investigation of each house, culminating in an online database which can be accessed by anyone. By constructing a database of the sites, it is possible to place the charterhouses in a wider European context, and draw conclusions as to the unique character of the order in the British Isles.


BA (Hons) Classical and Historical Archaeology: 1st Class (University of Sheffield 2012)
MA Medieval Archaeology: Distinction (University of Sheffield 2014)


White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities Doctoral Studentship (2014)