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Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre Archive

Date range: 13th-18th centuries

Medium: Archive

The English Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre were founded by Susan Hawley (1622–1706), who was professed at the convent of Tongres in Belgium, in 1641. In the following year she and four others went to Liège to establish a community there, of which she became the first Prioress in 1652.

Two years later the Canonesses took over the property of a house of Frères Coquins in the faubourg d’Avroy, which had fallen into decay. The Frères Coquins were a lay order following the Rule of St Augustine, and were originally known as the Brothers of the Hospital of St Christopher. The Canonesses remained in Liège until the French Revolution, when they took refuge in England, in 1798 settling at New Hall near Chelmsford, Essex.

The documents relate to the temporal possessions of the Frères Coquins, and subsequently the Canonesses, at Liège. They comprise estate records, consisting of more than 120 volumes of registers, manuals and accounts, and over 650 deeds relating to the property and finances of the two religious communities.

Records of the Brothers date from the 13th century to 1655; those associated with the Canonesses from the second half of the 17th century to the 18th century. They include a brief of Pope Innocent X, dated 13 June 1654, suppressing the Coquins and authorising the transfer of their property to the nuns; a list of lands sold by the Sepulchrines in 1699; and an 18th-century map of the property belonging to the Canonesses.

The archive constitutes a valuable source for studies of the land ownership and administration of religious houses in Flanders.

The community resided at New Hall until 2005, when it moved to a new location in Chelmsford. New Hall remains home to a Catholic boarding school.

Further information:

  • Outline catalogue available via Special Collections reading rooms.
  • See also note in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 34 (1951-2), pp. 244-5.


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