RepositorySpecial Collections Archives (GB 0029)
Ref NoEUL MS 262/add2
Date17th-20th century
Extent28 volumes (2 boxes)
TitleSyon Abbey modern manuscripts, Addition 2
DescriptionThis section comprises 28 manuscripts that were deposited in 2011 as part of the Syon Abbey archive (EUL MS 389). The manuscripts date from the early 17th century to the late 18th century, during which time the community was living in exile in Lisbon, Portugal. They consist of mainly religious manuscripts, including spiritual, devotional and theological texts, as well as two histories of Syon Abbey, and a register of manuscripts that was compiled by the community in the 20th century. The majority of these manuscripts have been written by nuns and monks of Syon Abbey, and many are inscribed with the names of sisters or brothers, providing evidence of their readership.
Admin HistorySyon Abbey was a monastic house of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, also known as the Bridgettine Order. The house was founded directly from the Mother House in Vadstena in Sweden in 1415, and the community followed the Rule of St Bridget of Sweden. This enclosed Bridgettine community - comprising both monks and nuns and governed by an abbess - was known for its dedication to reading, meditation and contemplation. In addition, it was unusual in being the only English Catholic community of religious to have continued existing without interruption through the Reformation period. In the wake of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, the community dispersed into smaller groups in which they continued their religious practice, with some remaining in England whilst others sought refuge abroad. Syon Abbey was restored for a short period in England under the Catholic rule of Mary I; however, following the accession of Elizabeth I and the return to Protestantism, the community went into exile. The community spent over half a century migrating through the Low Countries (Antwerp, Dendermonde, Haamstede, Mishagen, Mechelen) and France (Rouen), before eventually finding a new home in Lisbon, Portugal in 1594. In Lisbon, the community survived a convent fire in 1651 and the Lisbon Earthquake in 1755, but both events presumably resulted in the loss of many of Syon's early records. The last brother of Syon Abbey died in 1695. In 1809, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, the community - with the exception of three sisters, who remained in Lisbon - attempted a return to England; however, by 1815, they were struggling financially, and eventually they relinquished many of their ancient treasures to the Earl of Shrewsbury in exchange for financial support (many of these treasures were auctioned at the The Great Sale of 1857 at Alton Towers). One sister returned to the community in Lisbon, whilst the last of the nuns in England died in 1837. Following the arrival of new postulants in the early nineteenth century, the community in Lisbon recovered and regained its strength. In 1861, amid rising religious tensions in Portugal, the community successfully returned to England, where they initially resided in Spetisbury, Dorset. Following a further relocation to Chudleigh, Devon, in 1887, the community finally settled in South Brent, Devon, in 1925. On account of dwindling numbers and the age of the remaining nuns, the decision was made to close Syon Abbey in 2011. In the same year, the archive was transferred to the University of Exeter, where it joined other previously deposited collections relating to Syon Abbey, including printed books and manuscripts from the Syon Abbey library. The community attracts considerable research interests throughout the world.
Access StatusOpen
ArrangementWith the exception of one manuscript, all manuscripts in this section were previously kept in a box in the Syon Abbey archive labelled 'Box 28'. 24 of the manuscripts were numbered and entered into a handwritten 'Register of Syon Manuscripts' (see EUL MS 262/add2/29 for the 'Register') by the community, presumably in the mid 20th century. Three manuscripts (EUL MS 262/add/2/25-27) were found in Box 28 but were not noted in the 'Register'. One manuscript was found in a box labelled 'Box 30'. The original order, where discernible, has been retained. All previous reference numbers have been included in the 'alternative reference number' fields of the catalogue.

Please note: there is no catalogue entry for EUL MS 262/add2/18 as the manuscript described as number 18 in the 'Register of Syon Manuscripts' was not accessioned with the manuscripts in this series in 2011. This manuscript - which is marked 'MS. 18' and entitled 'A looking glace for the religious spiritual study of contemplation' - was deposited in 2004 with eleven other medieval and early modern Syon manuscripts (reference numbers EUL MS 262/1-11). The reference number for this manuscript is: EUL MS 262/18.
Creator_NameSyon Abbey; 1415-2011; Bridgettine
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