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York St John University Students Explore the Bar Convent Archives for Mary Ward Week

Published: 01 February 2022

  •   Students
Display panel showing photo of Mary Ward

Each January, the Bar Convent celebrates the achievements of the pioneering Yorkshire woman Mary Ward for a week to mark the anniversaries of her birth on January 23 1585 and her death on January 30 1645.

This year, the Bar Convent invited York St John history students, Grace Tutin and Amy Keeley, to explore the archives and enhance the exhibition with their findings. This includes the rediscovery of Catherine Chambers’ research notes from the 1880s. Sister Chambers retraced the steps of Mary Ward, and painstakingly collated all the information of her life. Much of what we know about Mary Ward today is thanks to her research which resulted in the first ever biography of Mary Ward. The notes have never been on display before.

Grace and Amy said: “As history students, we thought that the Bar Convent Heritage Centre would be the perfect place to complete our placement experience.

“Our project was to research the belongings of Mary Ward such as her crucifix and paternoster beads, which are held in the current exhibition. We then created a display for the information that we collated from the archives.

“Having never been offered this kind of opportunity before, we felt very lucky to have had the chance to work with Dr Hannah Thomas who helped us explore the records of Mary Ward and bring together our findings. We have found working with the archives extremely interesting, as they revealed the story of Mary Ward from the beginning of her letter writing to her legacy today.

“After having this experience, we have a newfound understanding and appreciation for the efforts that go into creating such an impressive exhibition and looking after these much-treasured collections.

“Since partnering with the fantastic members of the Bar Convent Heritage Centre, we have been able to learn about and recognise the value of the work of a brave, remarkable woman, and feel incredibly fortunate to play a part in celebrating her life.”

Dr Hannah Thomas, Archives Manager at the Bar Convent, said, “It was a pleasure to work with York St. John students on this project to celebrate Mary Ward Week and to introduce them to the Bar Convent archives.

“Mary Ward speaks to different people in different ways, and it was fascinating to learn which aspects Amy and Grace most related to. It speaks volumes that Mary Ward’s legacy is still relevant and inspiring students today- 400 years later.”

The display is part of the Bar Convent exhibition and will run from Monday 24 January- February half term. York Residents can visit the exhibition at the reduced rate of 50p on Saturday 29 January as part of York Residents Festival. There will also be free talks in the Chapel. Please visit the website for more details.   

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