Central Congregational Archive of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God (SMG)

The primary function of the SMG archive service is to preserve the central heritage collections, library and archives of the congregation, as the memory of the congregation and its works, guided by the norms and standards of the archival profession and other approved standards and international guidelines where they are applicable; to facilitate access to the archives and heritage collections by the congregation, its employees, associates and clients; and in a wider context to serve as part of the cultural heritage of world Catholicism, and hence to encourage a wider research use, in accord with the views of the Roman Catholic Church as expressed in documents such as The Pastoral Function of Church Archives, (February 1997).

Collections Held

The heritage collections consist of historical records, rare books, library items and artefacts, in a variety of formats, mainly dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. The Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God was founded in 1872 by Fanny Margaret Taylor (1832-1900), a Roman Catholic convert from Anglicanism who had served as a nurse during the Crimean War, and whose name in religion was Mother Mary Magdalen of the Sacred Heart. Archival collections comprise papers of Mother Magdalen and her family; records relating to the early years of the congregation, including correspondence with prominent Catholic clergy such as H. E. Manning and J. H. Newman; papers and literary MSS. of Mother Magdalen’s friend and supporter Lady Georgiana Fullerton; and records of the various works and institutions administered by the congregation, including hospitals, schools, hostels, refuges and care homes in Britain, Ireland,  and continental Europe, and latterly in the USA, South America and East Africa. The core of the library collections are historical editions of the literary works of Mother Magdalen and Lady Georgiana Fullerton, and they also include various partial runs of popular Catholic journals, some of which are now considered rare, including the Lamp and the Messenger of the Sacred Heart. Artefacts, artworks and temporary displays of archives relating to the history of the congregation can be viewed at the Venerable Magdalen Taylor Heritage Centre at St Mary’s Convent in Brentford, and those wishing to see the displays should please contact the archivist.  


Researchers are admitted by appointment only, on application to the archivist. The archives are generally open during ordinary office hours, but this can be negotiated with the archivist. External enquirers need to apply in writing to the archivist, and access is subject to the approval of the Generalate (governing council) of the congregation. For those doing extended research in the archives, a letter of introduction, e.g. from an academic supervisor, is generally also required. Enquiries which may require the release of potentially sensitive or confidential material relating to individuals need to be supplied in writing, by post or electronically, and the aim is to answer such enquiries within one month of their receipt. An enquirer may be required to supply documentary evidence confirming their identity before personal data can be released, as is required by data protection legislation. 

Contact Details

Enquiries to: 

Mr. Paul Shaw, Archivist, St. Mary’s Convent, 10, The Butts, Brentford, Middlesex , TW8 8BQ

Phone: 020-8568-7305
e-mail: paul.shaw@psmgs.org.uk

Website: https://www.poorservants.org/our-beginning/

Further Reading

‘The Central Congregational Archive of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God: A Summary Overview’ by Paul Shaw in Catholic Archives 2012, No 32, pp.49-58

St Mary’s Convent, Brentford: A Brief Guide to the Mother Magdalen’s Rooms by Sr Ida Kennedy SMG and Paul Shaw (Brentford, 2015 edn)

St Mary’s Convent, Brentford: A Brief Guide to the New Heritage Centre by Paul Shaw (Brentford, 2015)

St Mary’s Convent, Brentford: A Guide to Recent Temporary Exhibitions in the Heritage Rooms by Paul Shaw (2nd edn, Brentford, 2017)

‘Mother Magdalen Taylor and her Letters Project’ by Paul Shaw in Catholic Archives 2020, No 40, pp.24-45

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