Syon Abbey medieval and modern manuscript collection

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 29 EUL MS 262
  • Dates of Creation
      15th century - 20th century
  • Language of Material
      English Latin Portuguese French Dutch Swedish German Italian Spanish
  • Physical Description
      191 volumes 8 folders

Scope and Content

This collection contains twelve complete liturgical and theological manuscripts, dating between the 15th and 17th centuries. Some of these are listed in Ker and de Hamel' (see 'Publication note' below).

The following items are contained: 262/1 Processionale, 16th century; 262/2 Horae, 15th century 262/3 Brevarium, 15th century; 262/4 Horae, c 1424; 262/5 Horae, 15th c.; 262/6 Brevarium, 15th century; 262/7 Sermo de Sancta Anna et alia, 15th century; 262/8 Missale Hollandicum, 16th century; 262/9 Officium parvum Beate Mariae, 15th century; 262/10 Breviary, 17th century; 262/11 Antiphonale, 17th century; 262/18 A looking glace for the religious spiritual study of contemplation, 17th century or early 18th century.

262/fragments 1-8. The collection also contains fragments of parchment sheets (some with water, fire and pest damage) which have also been collected by the Abbey. Some of these are illuminated and are attributed to have formed part of the pre-Dissolution Abbey library. Some of these are listed by de Hamel. A further fragment found in the Syon Abbey archive within a notebook listing accounts [EUL MS 389/FIN/3/10] was added to 262/fragments 2 on 7 August 2017. The fragment, possibly from a manuscript of the Syon Additions, appears to correspond to another fragment within this folder.

Three subsequent additions of early modern and late modern manuscripts (16th to 20th century) from Syon Abbey have been arranged into three sequences, respecting their different provenances and dates of the accessions/transfers to the collection. These 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, Addition 3 (1526-18th century)

Syon 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 renowned 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.


Retained in the order as used at Syon Abbey.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Corporate Names