Special collections of the Bar Convent, York

The purpose of the Bar Convent Special Collections is to collect, preserve and make available records concerning the history of the Bar Convent, founded in 1686 and therefore the oldest living convent in England; and the history of the Congregation of Jesus in England.

Collections held

Three archive collections comprising:

1) BAR CONVENT COLLECTION (BC). Material relating to the history of the Bar Convent from 1686, such as correspondence, legal papers, account books, photographs, maps and plans, convent diaries, spiritual writings, school records and property deeds.

2) ENGLISH PROVINCE COLLECTION (EP). The Bar Convent is the official repository for the English Province of the Congregation of Jesus, f. 1929, and holds documents relating to the history of the Congregation of Jesus, its early foundations in England, the houses founded in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the foundation of the IBVM Loreto branch of Mary Ward’s institute.

3) MARY WARD COLLECTION (MW). This collection is largely uncatalogued. It includes a number of transcripts and copy documents relating to the life of Mary Ward (many of the original papers are housed in Munich), original correspondence, manuscripts and a range of documents relating to her Cause (usual restrictions apply).

Two library collections, including:

  • Antique Library of approx. 1,300 rare books, printed between 1508 and 1850. The volumes were collected by the nuns for their own use from about 1700 onwards, and are in a variety of languages including English, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Greek and Flemish. They include biographies; ascetical works on prayer, meditation and spirituality; Bibles; service books; sermons; works of controversy; history; and travel. Currently being catalogued in conjunction with Durham University, online catalogue expected soon.
  • Reference and research library of approx. 2,500 books relating to the fields of Religious Life, Church History and Post-Reformation Catholicism. There are also a number of Catholic-interest periodicals available for consultation, such as The Month and Recusant History. These collections are kept up to date, and new acquisitions are added regularly.

We are currently undergoing a major recataloguing project of all our collections; further information will be released in due course. Catalogues are currently only available for consultation in paper form on site.


The Special Collections of the Bar Convent are a private collection and access is at the discretion of the Special Collections manager and the Congregation of Jesus. Access is by appointment only, during normal working hours, Monday to Friday. Researchers are required to fill in a registration form at the time of their first visit and to abide by all the rules of the collections. Please contact us well in advance of your visit as our reading room is quite small.

The Special Collections Manager is happy to respond to simple email, postal or phone enquiries, free of charge. Please note that it is not possible to undertake detailed research on behalf of enquirers.

Contact details

Enquiries to: Dr Hannah Thomas, Special Collections Manager
Address: 17‒19 Blossom Street, York, YO24 1AQ, United Kingdom
Telephone: 01904 464929
Twitter: @BarConvSpecColl