An addition to our usual programme this season is a visit to the archives and library of Downside Abbey.
Downside Abbey has been in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, about 13 miles southwest of Bath, for 200 years. Downside is the Mother House of the English Benedictine Congregation, which claims continuity with the original Benedictine corporation of the thirteenth century.
Downside Abbey houses the largest monastic library in the United Kingdom. It contains more than half a million volumes, built up over 400 years from the time of the monastic community’s foundation in Douai, France. The main focus of our tour will be the rare book collection, which consists of 45,000 texts dating from 890 to 1829. Members will be able to see these rare volumes and to hear about their history and importance.
Our tour will be led by Dr Simon Johnson, Keeper of the Abbey Archives and Library. Simon will speak to us about the history of Downside and its collections, and we will then go to the Edmund Bishop Room, the main repository of the rare book collection. We will be able to see medieval books of hours, antiphonals, papal bulls, the recusant collection and Gatty’s ‘sundialiana’ as well as the seventeenth and eighteenth century collections.
We will be able to tour Francis Pollen’s renowned library building, opened in 1972 and recently refurbished using funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other donors. It is on six floors with access by lift for those who need it.
The visit will begin at 19.30 and should last about an hour.