RepositorySpecial Collections Archives (GB 0029)
Ref NoEUL MS 262
Date15th century-20th century
Extent191 volumes, 8 folders
TitleSyon Abbey medieval and modern manuscript collection
DescriptionThis collection comprises medieval and modern manuscripts owned by the Bridgettine community of Syon Abbey.

The collection includes twelve manuscripts (15th to 17th century) and one folder of manuscript fragments (15th-16th century), which were deposited by the community at the University of Exeter in 2004. Many of the medieval items are known to have formed part of the pre-Dissolution library at Syon Abbey and were reacquired by the community in the 20th century. Some items have connections to other Bridgettine communities in Europe. The fragments comprise folios from manuscripts that presumably formed part of the pre-Dissolution library at Syon Abbey. They were rediscovered by the community in the attic of Syon Abbey at Marley House in South Brent, Devon in c 1990. The manuscripts are listed at item level under the reference numbers EUL MS 262/1-18, and the fragments are described under the reference number EUL MS 262/fragments. [Bibliographical note: descriptions were compiled using N.R. Ker and A.J. Piper, 'Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, Vol. 4 Paisley-York' (1992).]

Three subsequent additions of modern manuscripts and rare books (16th to 20th century) from Syon Abbey have been arranged into three sequences, reflecting their different dates of accession or transfer to the collection. The 157 items deposited at the University between 2009 and 2011. Thirty-one of the manuscripts were originally stored with the Syon Abbey archive, and have gradually been transferred to the manuscript collection. They are listed at item level in the catalogue under the reference numbers below:

EUL MS 262/add1 - Syon Abbey modern manuscripts, Addition 1 (c 16th-20th century)

EUL MS 262/add2 - Syon Abbey modern manuscripts, Addition 2 (17th-20th century)

EUL MS 262/add3 - Syon Abbey modern manuscripts and rare books, Addition 3 (1526-18th century)
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. The community attracts considerable research interests throughout the world.
Access StatusOpen
Related MaterialOther related collections held at the University of Exeter Special Collections include:

The substantial book collection of Syon Abbey (entries available on the library OPAC online catalogue: see, under local classmark SYON ABBEY)

EUL MS 389 - Syon Abbey archive

EUL MS 265 - Papers relating to the library and its readership at Syon Abbey

EUL MS 394 - Papers relating to Marion Glasscoe's relationship with Syon Abbey and the Syon Reliquary

EUL MS 95 - Papers of Canon Fletcher relating to the history of Syon Abbey

EUL MS 459 - Photocopy of a letter from Sister Catherine Witham of Syon Abbey to her mother in 1763

EUL MS 499 - Book entitled 'Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae Secundum Missale & Breviarium Romanum' with inscriptions by Sister Catherine 'Kitty' Witham of Syon Abbey

Bound volumes of 'The Poor Souls' Friend and St Joseph's Monitor' (entry available on the library OPAC online catalogue: see, under local classmark SYON/POOR)
Other manuscripts relating to Syon Abbey, Middlesex, are held at the following repositories: Alnwick Castle, Cambridge University: King's College Archive Centre, Ghent University Library, Guildhall Library, Huntington Library, North Yorkshire County Record Office, Cambridge University Library, Cornwall Record Office, Lambeth Palace Library, the National Archives (Public Record Office), Longleat House, Cambridge University Library: St John's College Library, British Library, Lichfield Cathedral Library and at Ushaw College Library, Durham. 55 Syon Abbey manuscripts were copied onto microfilm and available at Hill Museum & Manuscript Library in Minnesota.
Access ConditionsUsual EUL arrangements apply.
ArrangementManuscripts and rare books with reference numbers EUL MS 262/1-18, EUL MS 262/add2, and EUL MS 262/add3 are retained in the order as used at Syon Abbey. Manuscripts with reference numbers EUL MS 262/add1 have been arranged into an approximate chronological order.

EUL MS 262/18 was formerly listed by the community of Syon Abbey along with the manuscripts now catalogued as EU L MS 262/add2 (see gap at EUL MS 262/add2/18). There are no manuscripts missing between EUL MS 262/11 and EUL MS 262/18. See the arrangement field in EUL MS 262/18 for more information.
Finding_AidsListed. A handlist is available. See also Note.
Creator_NameSyon Abbey; 1415-2011; Bridgettine
Mgt_GroupEducation papers
Theological papers
DS/UK/287Syon Abbey; 1415-2011; Bridgettine1415-2011
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