The Bar Convent has been taking part in Explore Your Archive launch week, a national campaign that illuminates the best of archive services in the UK and Ireland. Participants share items from their collections on social media that relate to different themes, with the aim of showcasing the huge range of material available in archives across the country, whatever their size and scale and wherever they are.

Each day of the week was assigned a particular hashtag, and participants shared relevant images of items from their collections. Representing the oldest living convent in England, our collections added a unique element to the discussions.

On Monday the theme was #archivecatwalk. Images flooded in of costumes, knitting patterns, people in snazzy outfits from various periods and even the occasional actual cat! Our contribution was this rather splendid group photograph of nuns and school pupils, dated c.1900 [BC/Ph/22]. Can you spot the guinea pig…?


On Tuesday, the theme was #ediblearchives. Having spent most of the day drooling over delicious looking cakes and reading menus, recipe books and shopping lists, we shared two documents. The first was this summary list of the meat-eating schedules at different convents in England [BC/4/G/9]:

ediblearchives 1

The second was a corrective memo from Bishop Robert Cornthwaite (1818‒90) on the decree concerning convent food, 1862. He notes that the “food should be generous in quantity, good in quality, varied in kind, and more carefully cooked.” [BC/4/G/6]:

ediblearchives 2

Wednesday’s #hairyarchives posed something of a challenge, but we rose to the occasion and did some research. We found this wonderful entry in the school account books of money spent by one Miss Beeston between 1790 and 1791, including 4s for “cutting hair combs tooth brushes” [BC/AC/B3]:


On Thursday, the theme was #sciencearchives. We were delighted to be able to share this picture of members of the community taking part in an excavation at Osbaldwick church in 1965. It was hoped that the excavations would uncover the exact burial location of the community’s foundress, Mary Ward (1585‒1645). The results were inconclusive, but an exciting foray into the world of archaeology nonetheless [EP/C6]:


The last day of the Explore Your Archive week was simply #lovearchives – an invitation to share the item or object that you loved most about your archive. A tricky decision at the Bar Convent as we have so many incredible things to choose from.

This manuscript spiritual commonplace book, compiled in about 1615 by the various members of the community at their base in Munich, has everything needed for undertaking the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Written by members of the community for use by them in both private and communal devotions, it also allows the Exercises to be shared with lay people in the local vicinity. There’s lots more research to come on this wonderful manuscript, which may even have include excerpts written by Mary Ward herself:


mary ward book 2

We were absolutely thrilled to be taking part in this year’s Explore Your Archives, and very much look forward to future events.


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