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Charterhouse School: Verites Boarding House

When Charterhouse School opened in Godalming in 1872 the houses, including Verites, were not ready for the boarders. There were no tables, chairs or cupboards and the beds, jugs and basins (these last two items for washing purposes) arrived at the same time as the pupils. Candles were stuck in ginger beer bottles until the gas was connected and even when it was the supply proved to be extremely unreliable. To add to the disruption, a blacksmith's forge was constantly operating in the lower dormitory! It must have been awful for the younger boys. Alexander Hay Tod, who had been a pupil at the Old Charterhouse having been enrolled in 1869 and subsequently transferred to Godalming with the school, was to write that the buildings "swarmed with earwigs and rats; to get rid of the rats the boys were allowed to keep ferrets in the houses". Nevertheless, "a good deal of time was spent bathing, as it was a fine, hot summer"[1].

Tod was born at sea on 25 Mar 1857, the son of Lieutenant Alexander George Tod of the Madras Light Infantry and his wife Isabella[2]. In 1935 the sports journalist and broadcaster E. W. Swanton described him as "one of the great names in the history of the modern Charterhouse". He had been a Master for 40 years and the house master of Verites for 14 (from 1906). Tod was both a games teacher and a distinguished scholar as well as "the most notable Charterhouse historian"[3]. Swanton was referring to Mr. Tod's authorship of a history of the school. In 1900 Messrs. Bell chose Charterhouse for the first of their new series of handbooks to the great public schools, which Tod was then commissioned to write[4]. The book was updated twice in his time at the school.

The above image dates from between 1900 and 1906, when the card was posted. At the far end of the block is the chapel, with Haig Brown's statue in front of it. There is also a sundial which "met with an accident" in its former position[1].

Although Verites boys slept in dormitories, their beds and belongings were housed in individual wooden cubicles with a window and high sides; it could could be locked from the inside[5]. The dorms were locked in the morning after the boys had gone. There were also two large day rooms in each house, one for the Upper School boys - in Verites called the Upper Long Room - and the other for those in the Under School. There were also small rooms for private study[6].

In 1918 there was a serious fire at Verites; it was discovered by one of the boys who smelled something burning and then saw sparks falling, so immediately raised the alarm. Although the school's fire brigade responded promptly, the establishment relied on a well that was 175ft deep for its water rather than using the borough's water system. The fire was beyond their capacity and the well was quickly exhausted. Godalming and Guildford brigades were alerted and the Dennis fire engine was quickly en route. Other brigades were asked to assist too. The Egham engine went down to the Wey and the firemen unwound 1000 feet of hose. London firefighters provided collapsible water tanks and another 2,000 feet of hose and water was then pumped up the hill to the burning building. Eventually the fire was quenched but it took most of the day to completely extinguish the flames. The roof between Verites' two distinctive towers fell in but Gown Boys, an adjoining house, seems to have been saved by workmen cutting through the roof. There was also considerable water damage to other parts of the main block[7]. Whist a fire-proof door prevented the fire from spreading to the ground floor, little more than the outer walls of the two upper floors remained[8]. It could have been worse but prompt action meant that books, bedding and belongings were saved and tablecloths containing food were amongst the items lying on the green in front of the building. One newspaper article said the fire was thought to have been caused by an electric wire fusing[7].

Alexander Tod would have witnessed the fire and dealt with its aftermath as he had not retired by then. He spent many years at Charterhouse, both as a pupil and teacher, except for the time was at Trinity College, Oxford whilst taking his degree. He passed away at Clifton in Bristol in his 85th year on 22 Jan 1942[9].

Verites is an abbreviation of "Oliverites" and was named after a former master, Rev. Oliver Walford, who was an usher of the then City of London based school from 1838 until his death on 3 Apr 1855[10]. "Ver" was a nickname used by his friends. The first Verites boarding house, originally Rutland House, had opened in 1794 and stood at the north-east corner of Charterhouse Square in London, adjoining the playground[11]. In 1851 Rev. Walford was the head of a boarding house (unnamed) at Rutland Place, Liberty of Glass House Yard in the City of London, together with his wife, four children and a number of Charterhouse boarders[12].

Charterhouse "outhouses" built in the 19th century






"Verites, Charterhouse". Published by Craddock Publishing, Godalming and posted on 13 Sep 1906 at Godalming.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Tod, A. H., M.A. (2nd Ed., Revised) (1919) "Charterhouse". Handbook to the Great Public Schools. London : George Bell and Sons Portugal St. Lincoln's Inn W.C. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell & Co New York : The MacMillan Co Bombay : A. H. Wheeler & Co. With grateful thanks to Clive Carter, a former Charterhouse headmaster, for the loan of this book and that of Jameson below.

[2] Tod was shown as a boarder at the school in 1871 and was living on Sandy Lane in 1881 by which time he was a master at Charterhouse. He described himself as being born on the "high seas" and records show he was born on the "Trafalgar". His father was to die in Clifton, Bristol in 1902.

[3] "Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News", 1 March 1935. Great Schools in Sport No 20 Charterhouse Part 1 by E. W. Swanton.

[4] "Pall Mall Gazette", 11 May 1900. The Gazette thought it "a very readable volume on a subject that is of interest to many besides Carthusians themselves".

[5] A photograph of the cubicles was published in the "Illustrated London News" on 8 November 1958.

[6] "Illustrated London News", 23 January 1875.

[7] "Surrey Advertiser", 13 March 1918. The Disastrous Fire at Charterhouse School. Five Hours Fight with Flames. Also "The Times", 9 Mar, 1918.

[8] "Gloucester Citizen", 10 April 1918. The Insurance World. Life, Fire and General. The Fire at Charterhouse School, Godalming.

[9] "The Times", 11 Feb, 1942.

[10] "Morning Post", 6 April 1855 and "Oxford University and City Herald", 14 April 1855. He was aged forty-one years of age and described as an M.A. (Trinity College, Cambridge) and Second Master of the Charter House School.

[11] Jameson, E. M. (1937) "Charterhouse". Blackie & Son Limited, London and Glasgow.

[12] 1851 census for England & Wales.

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