Papers relating to the Syon Reliquary and Marion Glasscoe's relationship with Syon Abbey

Scope and Content

This collection comprises papers donated to the University by Marion Glasscoe, who catalogued and co-ordinated the transfer of the Syon book collections to Exeter University Library, 1989-1990. It includes a document of admission to Syon Abbey granted to Marion Glasscoe and dated 1991; a copy of a letter, dated 2009, from the Revered Michael J. Fisher to the Lady Abbess of Syon Abbey concerning the Syon reliquary and its connection with the sixteenth Early of Shrewsbury; and nine colour photographs of the Syon reliquary.

Administrative / Biographical History

Marion Glasscoe co-ordinated the transfer of the Syon book collections to Exeter University Library.

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. The community attracts considerable research interests throughout the world.


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

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL conditions apply.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Marion Glasscoe

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply

Related Material

Other Syon Abbey related collections held at Special Collections include:

EUL MS 265 - Papers relating to the library and its readership at Syon Abbey EUL MS 262 - Syon Abbey medieval and modern manuscript collection EUL MS 389 - Syon Abbey archive EUL MS 95 - Manusciprts and papers of Canon John Rory Fletcher relating to the history of Syon Abbey The substantial book collection of Syon Abbey (entries available on the library OPAC online catalogue: see, under local classmark 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)