Visit to Berkshire and London, Autumn 2015

The Catholic Archives Society tradition of biannual study visits began in 1995 and this year’s, the 11th, was the first to archives and related interests in England.  Based at Douai Abbey and encouraged by beautiful surroundings, the chance to attend Mass and other services in the chapel, good company, good food and tranquil early autumn weather, 12 CAS members took part in a programme of talks and visits to archives, libraries, churches and recusant houses.

The visit began at Douai with a talk by Abbot Geoffrey Scott on Benedictine library and archive buildings, from the Abbey of St Gall in the 9th century to the new Douai Library and Archive, opened in 2010.  This was followed later that evening by a tour of the of the sumptuous Wintour Vestments exhibition, reunited last summer at Douai for the first time since 1671.  A tour of the Library and Archive followed later in the week after the exhibition had been dismantled.

Tuesday was based in Reading and was a varied day starting at the Berkshire Record Office.  Peter Durrant, former County Archivist, had prepared an interesting display of Berkshire archives with Catholic connections and we were also shown the conservation area and strongrooms, where our numerous questions were answered in detail.  Reading University Special Collections also welcomed us with a talk on the collections and display of Catholic material.  As often happens, preparing this had made the staff aware of the size and diversity of items with Catholic connections in their collections.  The afternoon was spent being guided through Reading Museum and the extensive ruins of Reading Abbey, followed by tea in St James Church and a tour of the church.

Reading Abbey Quarter Tour
Reading Abbey Quarter Tour (Photo Credit: Reading Abbey Quarter)


On Wednesday an information professionals’ tour of the National Archives and lunch with Tim Powell, the advisor for religious archives, was followed by an extensive tour of the archives of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, during which Paul Shaw, their archivist, showed us the archives, described his work and distributed informative handouts.

The last two days included talks and visits to recusant houses.  Tony Hadland and John and Lindsey Mullaney spoke on recusants in the Thames Valley and Catholicism in Reading and so gave context to the enduring Catholic history of the area.  Tours of Stonor and Mapledurham houses then illustrated the lives of those who had not only retained their faith in adversity but passed it on for many generations.

These notes are a summary only of the week.  It is a feature of CAS visits and other events that the participants are asked to write reports which will appear in the next issue of the CAS Bulletin.  Also, if anyone has ideas for future visits, please contact any Council member.