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Jesuits in Britain Archives


















114 Mount Street, London, W1K 3AH



020 7529 4836










Head of repository


Mrs Rebecca Somerset, Archivist

Ms Mary Allen, Deputy Archivist







Institutional context


The Jesuits in Britain Archives are the principle place of deposit for the records of the British Province of the Society of Jesus, which incorporates England, Wales and Scotland and the Guyana Region. Until 2016, the South Africa Region was part of the British Province and records relating to South Africa can therefore be found in the Jesuits in Britain Archives.


The Archives are a unique historical collection that enshrines the collective memory of the British Province, its members and works, and reflects the continuing development of the Jesuit charism. They are an invaluable resource, both providing insight into the Jesuits in Britain as a particular religious order, and contributing to the historical study of Christianity in Britain in its cultural and global context.


Other archival holdings in the Province include small-scale local collections as well as larger holdings at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire and at Campion Hall, Oxford.

Institutional history


The Jesuits, or Society of Jesus, is an international male religious order of the Catholic Church, founded in 1540 by St Ignatius Loyola and his 9 companions. Today there are 18,000 priests and brothers present in over 100 countries.  Jesuits in Britain work as parish priests, chaplains, teachers, academics, writers, doctors, spiritual directors and artists.

The English Mission formally began in 1580 when Fr Edmund Campion SJ and Fr Robert Parsons SJ were sent from Rome to share in the work of reconciling England to the Catholic Church. The 16th century was one of religious upheaval since Henry VIII’s break with Rome, and fear of Catholic plots during the reign of Elizabeth I led to the effective banning of Catholic worship and of Catholic priests. To become a priest, Englishmen had to train and usually work abroad, which is where many were first introduced to the Society. The English College for the training of priests from England was founded in Rome in 1579 and Pope Gregory XIII entrusted the college's administration to the Jesuits. It was then that the Jesuit mission to England was approved. 

The English seminaries at Valladolid and Seville were founded in 1589 and 1892 respectively, and an English College in St Omer in 1593. In 1598, to solve the awkward administrative structure, England became the Society’s first prefecture. After a novitiate was opened in Liège and a house of studies in Louvain in 1614, the mission was elevated to the status of Province in 1619. Full provincial status was finally granted in 1623. During the first half of the 17th century the province grew, but the English Civil War (1642-1651) and the Popish Plot (1678) devastated the Province.

With the suppression of the Society in France in 1762, the English College at St Omer was transferred to Bruges and then to Liege in 1773, before moving a third and final time to Stonyhurst in Lancashire in 1794. As the Napoleonic Wars were reaching their end in 1814, the old political order of Europe was to a considerable extent restored at the Congress of Vienna after years of fighting and revolution, and Pope Pius VII issued an order restoring the Society of Jesus in the Catholic countries of Europe. 

The Society flourished in the 19th century with the opening of several colleges, and abroad the British Jesuits worked in Jamaica, Calcutta, Malta, Honduras, Guyana, Zambesi (Zimbabwe and Zambia) and South Africa.

Administrative structure


The Jesuits are divided worldwide, for administrative purposes, into a number of Provinces. The British Province currently incorporates England, Wales and Scotland and the Guyana Region.


Provinces are currently grouped into one of ten assistancies. (An Assistancy consists of one nation, or group of nations, associated according to language or culture.)

Collecting policy


The main accessions come from Jesuit houses, especially those now closed, and from the papers of deceased Jesuits. We also periodically receive material from the Provincial Curia.



The Archives occupy the basement of a building constructed in the 1960s to link the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm St, and the Mount St residence. It also contains the Provincial Offices and Mount St Jesuit Centre.  


Due to its location, the search room has only a small amount of natural light. Wireless internet and desks with power-points are available for users with laptops, and a large table is available for consulting maps and oversize items.

Archival and other holdings


The Jesuits in Britain Archives holds

  • papers relating to the administration of the Province by the Provincial Curia;
  • personal papers and correspondence of many deceased members of the Province (e.g. photographs, diaries, theological and spiritual notes and reflections, works that the individual has published – or attempted to publish, and key events that the individual was involved in organising);


  • records of Jesuit communities; 


  • papers relating to Province works;


  • material relating to the overseas missionary work of the Province, e.g. correspondence relating to the mission in former British Guyana, to the early Maryland mission as well as papers relating to South Africa and Zimbabwe. (Please note that these regions now maintain their own Archive);


  • Deposited Collections: Archives of the Vice-Postulators for the Cause of the Holy Martyrs, Plater College Archives and some records from the archive of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, New Hall relating to the Jesuit Chaplains at their convent in New Hall.

Most of the material held dates from the 18th century onwards, but the collection also includes a series of bound volumes of records which relate to the early history of the Province and were transferred from Stonyhurst College. These include the Anglia manuscripts and Christopher Grene’s Collectanea. As well as having an important bearing on the early history of the Province these volumes also contain some of our earliest material, dating from the 16th century.
The Archives also include a collection of antiquarian books, consisting of works by members of the Province and those defined as being important for the post-Reformation history of Catholicism in Britain and the history and spirituality of the Society.
Material is held in a variety of formats: manuscript, printed document, photographic, microfilm, born digital, audio-visual, lantern slides.
There is also open access to a reference-only library specialising in Catholic and Jesuit history and publications written by or about British Jesuits, and several journals. 

Finding aids and publications


Cataloguing is ongoing and researchers are invited to browse what has so far been catalogued through the Catholic Heritage website (http://archives.catholic-heritage.net/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=ABSI).


At present the principal finding aid is a card index in addition to some word-processed lists. The card index is not on open access, and thus searches are carried out by the Archivist on request.


Published guides to the Archive and its holdings:

Fr. Francis Edwards SJ “The Archives of the English Province of the Society of Jesus at Farm Street, London: Part 1”, Catholic Archives, 1 (1981), pp. 20-25
Fr. Francis Edwards SJ “The Archives of the English Province of the Society of Jesus at Farm Street, London: Part 2”, Catholic Archives, 2 (1932), pp. 37-45
Guide to the Jesuit Archives by T. M. McCoog SJ (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2001)







Opening times


Open: Monday-Friday 09:30-13:00; 14:00-16:30 (by appointment)

Closures: The Archives close for the month of September. Public and religious holidays are also observed.

Conditions and requirements


The Archives of the British Province of the Society of Jesus are a private archive and access is by appointment only at the discretion of the Archivist. Researchers are asked to apply in writing to visit the Archives, providing details of their research topic. Visitors must also complete a registration form the first time they visit each year.

Please click here for more details about visiting the Archives.

Disabled access


The Archives are located in a basement area which may be accessed via a lift from the ground floor. 9 steps, however, must be climbed in order to gain access to the lift: 5 steps to the main reception area, and a further 4 steps to the lift. This can make access for those with physical disabilities problematic. Enquirers are asked to discuss their needs with the Archivist when making an appointment, such that all attempts can be made to facilitate access where possible.



The Archives are located in the heart of Mayfair, within easy walking distance of Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines) and Bond Street (Central and Jubilee lines) underground stations and are also accessible via several bus routes. For more detailed information regarding transport links, please use the Transport for London website. Unfortunately we cannot provide parking spaces for visitors wishing to drive, but there is restricted on-street parking in the streets nearby as well as public car parks.







Research services


Archive staff are unable to undertake detailed research on behalf of enquirers other than in exceptional circumstances (for which a fee will apply). Limited research enquiries can be carried out free of charge.

Reproduction services


Copies can be requested of any items in the Archive subject to preservation and copyright regulations and at the Archivist’s discretion. A charge will be applicable for reprographic services. A photocopier is available in the searchroom for self-service copying at a fee, and photography is permitted free of charge. Copyright declaration forms must be completed in any of these circumstances.

Public facilities


The Archives are located in the heart of Mayfair, close to the shops and amenities of Oxford Street and Piccadilly.







Date of creation


16 December 2016