Papers relating to the library at Syon Abbey

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains the following papers relating to reading habits and book collections of the nuns of Syon Abbey during 1989-1990:

Abbey, 1989-1990.

Administrative / Biographical History

Syon Abbey's dissolution in 1539.

At the dissolution, the nuns went into exile and lived first in the Low Countries and later in Portugal. From the mid-sixteenth-century to 1809, when the nuns returned to England, the sisters lived as an English community at Lisbon. Marion Glasscoe, who co-ordinated the transfer of the Syon book collections to Exeter University Library, has recorded that the sisters took a small core of surviving books with them when they first went into exile and she argues that the nuns continued to build up their library while abroad and that they brought all those volumes which survived a convent fire (Lisbon 1651) back to England on their return in the nineteenth-century. The community attracts considerable research interests from throughout the world.


The original order of this collection on deposit has been retained.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply, except to the commonplace book file (access restricted: Please contact the Archivist for details).

Other Finding Aids

Currently unlisted.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 25 April 2005, and encoded into EAD, 3 June 2005.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply, except to the commonplace book file (access restricted: Please contact the Archivist for details).

Custodial History

The library catalogue was created at Syon Abbey during 1989-1990 by Marion Glasscoe and Claire Johnson during preparations for a change of premises. During this period, the pre-1850 items forming part of the library were transferred to the University of Exeter Library (now held in Special Collections): these books were denoted the classmark A. The remaining catalogue and associated papers in this collection were donated to the University Library in 2004.

Related Material

The substantial book collection (pre-1850) of Syon Abbey is also held at Special Collections, and is fully catalogued, with entries available on the library's online catalogue, under classmark Syon. In addition, Special Collections holds MS 95 (Papers of Canon Fletcher relating to the history of the abbey) and MS 262 (medieval and early modern manuscripts).

The working archive of the Abbey (mainly 19th and 20th c.) is retained at Syon Abbey, South Devon. Other 15th-16th c. 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, and Lichfield Cathedral Library.


It is not known whether publication has resulted from use of this collection.