Syon Abbey was a monastic house of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, also known as the Bridgettines, which was founded by King Henry V in 1415. The community – comprising both monks and nuns, and governed by an abbess – was renowned for its dedication to reading, meditation and contemplation. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the community continued its religious practice in exile on the European continent, eventually finding a new home in Lisbon, Portugal in 1594. In 1861, the nuns of Syon Abbey returned to England where, after several relocations, they finally settled in South Brent, Devon. In 2011, and after 596 years of uninterrupted existence, Syon Abbey was closed.
The Syon Abbey Archive, now in the care of the University of Exeter Special Collections, is a rich resource for research, particularly for those interested in the history and lives of women religious, ecclesiastical history, and women’s studies. The archive comprises a wide range of material dating from 1467 to 2018, which relates to the community, worship, daily life, management of the abbey, and external relations. Cataloguing of the Syon Abbey archive took place between 2017 and 2018, and the archive can now be searched here via our online catalogue.