Archives and Research

The archives of the English Province are housed at the Bar Convent, York, where followers of Mary Ward opened a school and community in 1686. These archives provide unique and intimate details of our story.

The Bar Convent is also home to the Living Heritage Exhibition, which uses the latest technology and techniques to tell the fascinating tale of the secret beginnings of the Bar Convent, the story of Mary Ward, and to offer a snapshot of the work of Mary Ward sisters all over the world today.

For the study of Mary Ward we rely on an extensive set of transcripts from the original papers in Munich. The story of the Bar Convent is told through its own documents, including letters, journals, registers and account books, from which a vivid picture of convent life at a time of persecution can be seen.  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, complete the collections.

The main research library is largely devoted to Catholic history, with special emphasis on the recusancy period.  In addition there is the historic convent library of antique books dating from 1508 to 1850, constituting an interesting recusant collection in several different languages.

We welcome enquiries from researchers wishing to use our archives. Please contact Dr Hannah Thomas, Bar Convent Special Collections and Research Manager, introducing yourself and providing some details of your research topic via email ( or by calling 01904 643 238.