Discover our Collections- Catholic Relics

31st March 2024

The collections team at Abbotsford have been busy cataloguing objects from our sacristy. In this blog post, Collections Officer Claudia shares just a few of the fascinating items recently catalogued that allow us to delve deeper into the lives of Scott’s descendants, the Hope-Scott’s and the Maxwell-Scott’s.

Ever since Walter Scott’s granddaughter Charlotte and her husband, James Hope Scott converted to Catholicism in the early 1850s, the family were devout followers of the faith. 

In 1853 they added a private wing to Abbotsford, creating a dedicated tourist route through the gardens and through the historic house, while steering the ever-rising visitor numbers away from the family’s home. The Catholic Chapel was added in 1855.

James Hope Scott was an important figure in the Oxford Movement and a close friend of John Henry Newman (later Cardinal Newman, and now Saint John Newman). James Robert Hope-Scott and his wife Charlotte were received into the Roman Catholic church in 1851.

We recently catalogued a number of relics - devotional objects which offer Catholics a way to personally connect with the communion of saints, much like how we cherish mementos of deceased family members.

Personal relics are often placed in a locket or crucifix pendant. We have a collection of these housed in a Gothic reliquary cabinet, dating back to the late 19th century.

Gothic reliquary cabinet

They belonged to James Hope-Scott, and his daughter Mary Monica (later Mary Monica Maxwell-Scott) and we can date them through their authentication certificates which we also hold.

This relic (particularly poignant at Easter time) contains fragments of objects connected with the passion of Christ and dates from 1861.

 Among the belongings of the later family, we have also found this beautiful reliquary crucifix.

Our chapel is still an active place of worship where mass is celebrated monthly. It is also open to the public as part of our visitor experience. A selection of items John Henry Newman gifted to the family along with the story of James Hope Scott and Newman form part of a permanent exhibition in the Chapel. The items, including robes which are now classed as sacred relics, were gifted by Cardinal Newman to Mary Monica, daughter of James and Charlotte, who had become a close friend. One of the robes is believed to include a 16th-century tapestry panel which has been mounted on to 18th-century silk, while the other is a peerless example of 19th-century vestment clothing.