From the Archives: September's Activities

POST BY RSomerset


During the month of September the Jesuits in Britain Archives were closed in order to allow the team to concentrate on the important task of cataloguing. Nonetheless, the Archives was also busy with some non-cataloguing work in the middle of September.

The first activity we took part in was the Catholic Legacies, 1500-1800: Uncovering Catholic lives and records conference in Oxford on 16 September. The Jesuit collections were very well represented and promoted during the day.


Thomas McCoog SJ gave an informative talk on 

'The formation of Jesuit archives relevant to England' during which he also flagged up the need for researchers to let archivists know what they want to see and to be prepared for earlier material to be in other languages. Jan Graffius gave a whirlwind powerpoint presentation of some of the Stonyhurst College's many treasures, including some that belong to the Province but are curated by Stonyhurst, in a session on 'The material culture of early modern Catholicism'. Finally, I had brough along items from the Jesuits in Britain Archives for the special displays session in the afternoon. 


Table with documents and books on book rest on itI had chosen items to represent the key areas for which we hold material of potential use for research in 1500-1800. Among the items on display were three reliquaries from the relic collection, the portrait of Henry Morse SJ (1595-1645), two selections from the New Hall Archives collection, which was donated to the Jesuits in Britain Archives in 2004 by the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre and is at present being catalogued, the bound volume (Reference: MS.A.I.22) of 16 documents relating to Mrs Helen Wintour’s bequest of vestments to the Society, and Henry More SJ’s Historia Missionis Anglicanae Societatis Iesu…1660 as an example of the antiquarian book collection.


On Friday 18 September, we welcomed the Jesuits in Formation to the archives and put out a range of material to showcase what is held in the collection. The items on display ranged from the Final Vows of Fr Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) SJ (Reference: 1/4/3, which is dated 1882 and is particularly valued by Hopkins’ scholars and enthusiasts as the vows are in Fr Hopkins’ own hand), to a Letter from Napolean Bonaparte (Reference: OI/10), to some examples from Fr Cuthbert Cary-Elwes' photograph collection of Guyana and to the Top hat presented to Fr Frederick Copleston SJ (1907-1994) by the University of Uppsala, Sweden, to mark his honorary doctorate in theology (June 1983). There were also selected photographs (Reference: 32/5/2F) showing daily life and drama performances of the theologians at Heythrop College, Oxfordshire, a relic of St Edmund Campion SJ (1540-1581), and lots of other documents to give the visitors an idea of the richness and variety of the archives' holding.

Finally, I also attended the celebration Mass in St Francis Xavier Church, Liverpool, to mark the restored stained glass image of St Ignatius on Sunday 20 September. The image of St Ignatius had been part of the first stained glass windows installed behind the main altar in 1850, shortly after the opening of SFX church, and are believed to be the work of William Wailes, a noted 19th century stained glass designer. 

During the Blitz in 1941 the altar windows were smashed and after the war they were replaced with the current windows. An unknown individual had however collected the fragments together and put them in a box in the hope of these being eventually restored. The box lay forgotten until a few years ago it was rediscovered by Br Ken Vance SJ. This contained the remainig pieces of a stained glass image of St Ignatius. The Friends of SFX Church raised money for its restoration and were succesful in obtaining a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. 

Thus the image could be restored and is now installed in one of the ex-confessional doors in the main nave. The Friends of SFX had been to visit the archive to look at some of the documents we hold to see if they could learn any more about the image and its history and used some of the information they found in the related exhibition that was put on for the celebration Mass. I was fortunate enough to also be given a guided tour of the church by Mary, one of the Friends of SFX, who pointed out some of the many fascinating features of the building.