I am delighted to announce that this year’s Catholic Record Society volume, Richard Williams’s edition of the papers of Mannock Strickland (1683-1744): Agent to English Convents in Flanders is published today. Richard Williams’s volume is the eighty-sixth published in the Records Series by the CRS since 1904 and the first over which I have presided as CRS Volumes Editor.
The publication of this volume is an important event in the historiography of post-Reformation English convents because it makes available, for the first time, an entirely unique collection of financial data on the practical functioning of communities of English nuns in the eighteenth century. Mannock Strickland was a rare example of a Catholic lawyer in eighteenth-century England, who acted at no charge as an agent for a number of convents, dealing in each case with the Procuratrix (the nun whose job it was to keep the community afloat financially). This volume contains documents relating to Strickland’s dealings with the Augustinian Canonesses of St Monica’s, Louvain, the Dominican nuns at Brussels (known as the ‘Spellikens’ or ‘Pin House’), and the Benedictine Dames of Brussels and Dunkirk. In all other cases, financial documents of religious houses were lost of destroyed at the French Revolution, but data relating to these houses was preserved by Strickland in England and later passed to Michael Blount of Mapledurham, Oxfordshire, an obsessive hoarder.
The documents are of three kinds: letters exchanged between Mannock Strickland and the Procuratrices, cash days books of the convents, and abstracts of bills of exchange. There is also an appendix detailing an unsuccessful attempt to revive the faltering financial fortunes of the English Carthusian monks at Nieuport organised by Strickland. This volume shows as never before the inner economic workings of the convents, revealing the precarious nature of the nuns’ hand-to-mouth existence, and its unique perspective will inform scholarship on English female monasticism for decades to come.