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About the Venerable English College Archives

With thousands of items in the collection, the VEC Archives is a valuable resource for the study of the history of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and of the English presence in Rome since before the foundation of the English Hospice in 1362.


Background image: A Mass composed for the VEC in 1853 by Fr William Knight (1808–1874), of Hartlepool. The fragile manuscript was discovered in a Yorkshire presbytery in 2017 and then presented to the College Archives. Like many other documents in the collection, it requires careful conservation.


Off the shelf: what is in the collection of the VEC Archives?

The Venerable English College Archives contain a vast amount of varied material. Some of the highlights of the collection include:

  • Comprehensive financial records, which are valuable in shedding light on the functioning of the medieval Hospice, as well as on the life of the seminary from the Counter-Reformation to the present day.

  • Architectural records, concerning both the Via di Monserrato site and the various other properties that have belonged to the College over the centuries.

  • Guest lists and pilgrim lists, and also the famous Liber Ruber: now in its ninth volume, this College register records the name of every student who has passed through the College since 1579.

  • Personal collections, such as the 360 letters written from the College by Fr Gerald Creasey to his parents during the seven years of his formation in the 1950s.

  • Papers concerning important individuals who have been associated with the College throughout its history — the Stuarts, Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, Blessed John Henry Newman, Mgr Christopher Stonor, Mgr George Talbot and Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, among many others.

  • Thousands of photographs dating back well over a century, recording many significant moments and people in the College’s more recent history.

  • Correspondence regarding the early history of the dioceses of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Quebec in North America (the so-called North American Agency Papers).


Work to date

The years 2015 to 2018 have witnessed a full-time project to begin the process of conserving, cataloguing and digitizing the VEC Archives.

The project has prepared the way for a new phase in the life of the Archives, making available to historians a rich resource for scholarly research.

The VEC Archives have never enjoyed the benefit of an associated reference library.

The College Trustees declared in March 2017 that they wish to see the development of an archival reference library as a significant adjunct to the College Archives. This library will celebrate the long history of the English and Welsh Catholic community at home and abroad throughout the ages. As no comparable library collection exists in Rome, this is a unique development.

The new facility is being developed using existing College Library resources, and supplementing them with donations from collections in England and Wales. More than 1000 reference books have been donated since 2016, complementing existing VEC holdings: these books are largely duplicates from diocesan archival library collections in England, Wales and Ireland.

The VEC possesses a substantial collection of rare books dating from the 16th century. These have been largely inaccessible to scholars in the past: the books need professional care and attention in both conservation and cataloguing.

These new initiatives promise to raise significantly the status of the VEC as a place of serious international scholarship.


Can you help us?

We are working hard to preserve and develop the VEC Archives to protect the important records in the collection, and the history that they detail. Will you please help us reach our £5 million target?