The Community of St John Baptist
One of our most nationally important collections is the archive of the Community of St John Baptist, the Anglican Sisterhood founded at Clewer in the mid 19th century to run the Clewer House of Mercy. The order was dissolved in 2019 after the last few Sisters left their convent for care homes, but we are pleased to announce that the final tranche of their records has now been catalogued (D/EX1675).
The new material includes the official Community Rolls, or admissions of Sisters, 1852-2007, and other personal material relating to individual Sisters; registers of novices, 1869-1996; and more detailed information on novices from 1948 onwards. This more personal material will not be immediately available for research, but will form a useful resource in the future. There is material relating to the Sisters’ growing interest in ecumenicism in the second half of the 20th century. ‘Diary’ accounts of the Mother Superior’s visits to the American Affiliation or branch of CSJB, 1964-1984, show their impressions of the US and American religious life.
The convent’s Windsor location meant occasional royal links; one Sister was a personal friend of Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Helena; and two Sisters stood vigil at the official Windsor prayers for Diana, Princess of Wales, before her funeral in 1997. The oldest item is a crucifix belived to date from the 17th century. There are also two rare very early photographs from the mid 19th century, of Mother Harriet, the first Mother Superior, and Mariquita Tennant, the widow who founded Clewer House of Mercy.
Students of the Anglo-Catholic revival of the 19th century will be particularly interested in correspondence received by Canon Thomas Thelusson Carter, the Community’s first Warden. There are letters from such significant figures as Henry Manning (1808-1892), Anglican Archdeacon of Chichester 1841-1851 and following his controversial conversion to Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and eventually a Cardinal; John Keble (1792-1866); hymn writer John Mason Neale (1818-1866); Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882); Edward King, the Bishop of Lincoln prosecuted for allowing ritualistic practices (1829-1910); Ignaz von Doellinger (1799-1890); and Mother Marian Hughes (1817-1912), founder of another celebrated Anglican Sisterhood, the Society of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.
Most of the new material relates to the Community itself, but some records have ben added for their works of charity. These include some atmospheric photographs of St Lucy’s Home (a children’s home) and St Lucy’s Hospital for Poor Children, both in Gloucester. Perhaps more significant is material on the medical, educational and religious work they carried out in Bengal, India, between 1881 and 1944; and educational and religious work in Barbados, 1926-1946. An oral history recording of the late Sister Moira's memories of life in the Community as, successively, penitent, Magdalen and Sister, from the 1930s onwards, recorded on cassette tape in 1986, has been digitised and offers a rare insight into what life was like for each of these groups in the 20th century.
Also of interest is correspondence relating to the Community's relationship with the Epiphany Philosophers, which the Community hosted at Neale House, Cambridge, in the 1960s. The Epiphany Philosophers were a group of academics who were interested in the relationship between science and religion between 1951 and 1981.
From books to goats’ milk: Co-operation in West Berkshire
We are pleased to have catalogued records of the West Berks Co-operative Development Association, 1985-1996 (D/EX1386). This organisation supported co-operative enterprises, including Workers’ Co-operatives, Housing Co-operatives and Trading Co-operatives, the Acorn Bookshop in Reading, UB Cycles and ARA Third World Study Tours. They assisted a number of start-up co-ops in the area, including the Whole Food Restaurant, a knitwear business and an agricultural co-op specialising in goat’s milk and meat products.
Kingsclere Methodist Church, Hampshire: marriages, 1941-2011 (D/MS94)
Tadley Common Methodist Church, Hampshire: marriages, 1963-2014 (D/MS98)
We hold these as although the churches are not actually in Berkshire, they form part of the Basingstoke and Reading Methodist Circuit whose headquarters is in Reading.