Monday, 15 July 2013

Closure: Tuesday 16 July

Westminster Diocesan Archives will be closed on Tuesday 16 July 2013 owing to a power cut caused by building works. This means that it will not be possible to use the reading room or contact us by phone. Emails should still work.

We hope that normal service will resume on Wednesday 17th.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

'The World is Our House' Hereford Cathedral 21 June 2013

This conference is advertised on behalf of Hannah Thomas of Swansea University:

A Midsummer symposium on international Jesuit culture, 15401700, with an evening concert of early Jesuit music, to celebrate the re-evaluation of the Cwm Jesuit Library, housed at Hereford Cathedral since 1679.  The library, the largest surviving seventeenth-century Jesuit missionary library in Britain, is currently being analysed in depth as part of an exciting joint project between Swansea University and Hereford Cathedral, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The study day will place the library within its larger international context by exploring the rich and fascinating world of seventeenth-century Jesuit culture.

The symposium and concert have been made possible thanks to generous sponsorship from the Jesuit Institute in London, the British Province of the Society of Jesus, and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Information about the programme and booking is available on the conference blog here:

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Payments and Donations Online

One unexpected Easter blessing has been the setting up of an online donations page for Westminster Diocesan Archives. Many thanks to the diocesan IT department and web developers who have helped set this up.

Unlike many archives in the UK, we receive no public money or external funding. Our running costs are supported entirely by the diocese and any donations that wellwishers are generous enough to make. We run on a tiny budget and any donations are a great help to ensure that we can stay open and free to researchers.

WDA Donations Page

We do charge for some services -photography (self service and orders) and paid research for those who are unable to visit in person. We are going to trial using the new donation system as a way of paying for these online. It will still be possible to pay by cash or cheque but this should make things much easier for our users from abroad.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at our policies and charges for paid research and photography to make sure that they'll still work with the new system and that the charges are fair. Once this is done, they'll be up on the website.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cardinal Vaughan and Westminster Cathedral

A current project being undertaken by one of our volunteers is the detailed cataloguing of Cardinal Vaughan's letters. Those in the archive seem to have been used very little by researchers -probably because the original catalogue is so poor! We hope to have an improved catalogue available online within the next year.

This newly discovered letter from Vaughan to his secretary, Mgr Dunn reveals his personal care for every detail of building the new Westminster Cathedral, and the occasional perils of being a Cardinal's  secretary.

September 17 1902

“In my room, in a corner near the stand up desk, is a basket full of stones from old Cathedrals and Abbey Churches.....there are missing from the Cathedrals -Canterbury, Hereford and Westminster Abbey Church -and perhaps some others...write to the priests in Hereford and Canterbury in my name, say we have all the old Cathedrals except so and so. Hereford will be very easy to get, because in the cloister there is a great heap of stones taken out of the old building. As we only want a few inches of the old material -it ought not to be difficult to pick up something in Westminster Abbey also.

Next, take a hammer and divide each stone into 3 pieces -one to go into the cement or grouting of the High Altar, one for the Blessed Sacrament Altar, and a third from the Lady Altar. There are some larger stones, finials etc -which might be kept for the Lady Altar as entire as possible and so arranged in building up the side of the altar as to be visible to any one looking at it for that purpose.”

So far we have not been able to discover whether Vaughan managed to collect all the Cathedrals, whether the stones were in fact cemented into the new cathedral altars and if poor Mgr Dunn was sent to Westminster Abbey under cover of darkness with a hammer and chisel. Any further information would be appreciated!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Augustinian Canonesses at Ealing

In 1911, the English Augustinian convent at Neuilly, on the outskirts of Paris was forced to leave France as Catholic educational establishments were closed by laws separating church and state. The canonesses settled in Ealing and built themselves a new home which survives today as St Augustine's Priory School.

A brief history can be found on the school website but, for anyone interested, the entire community archive from its foundation in 1634 to closure in the 1990s is held here in the archive.

The community journals describe some incidents of everyday life in Ealing:

"Great excitement during recreation. A box tied with string and thrown over the fence along Hill Crest Rd. was found to contain a large hedge-hog, and this in turn, led to the discovery of a "nest", complete with father, mother and no less than five "baby" hedge-hogs -dear little creatures -(to some!)"

By Calle Eklund/V-wolf (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons