From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Ushaw College, Junior Seminary

County Durham

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Ushaw College, Junior Seminary is located on Ushaw Moor which is close to Durham, County Durham. It was built in 1804 by James Taylor of Islington and was occupied in 1808. The building remained largely unchanged until 1840, when there began a period of major expansion that continued into the next century.

The origins of Ushaw College begin with William Allen who was the Principal of St. Mary's hall at Oxford, after he fled into exile to France during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He set up a Catholic University in Douai, Flanders, which at the time was in control of the Catholic King of Spain, Philip II. France took control of Flanders in the late 17th century. It opened to train priests who then would infiltrate into England for the English Catholics. If they were caught it would mean death by hanging, as it was a treasonable offence for priests to say mass in England. It is thought that 122 men from Douai Collage were caught and hanged.

In the late 18th century brought the end of Douai Collage with the French Revolution caused a decline in the number of students attending the collage and a number of English Catholics taking advantage of the reduction of laws restricting their practice in Britain. Catholic chapels were permitted although the priests were subject to registration. Catholic schools began to appear. A war between England and France caused the French to confiscate all British property.

In 1799 Bishop Gibson brought land to re-home Douai Collage form Sir Edward Smythe but it took five years to lay the foundations due to lack of money and then another four years to build. In July 1808 the first students walked eight miles to their new home at Ushaw College.

The college expanded, the quadrangle was completed in 1817. Extensive expansion in the 1840's and 50's in the then fashionable neogothic style saw the college become the premier Catholic collage at that time.

It wasn't till after World War II that the number of students peaked as the demand for priests were high and students plentiful. A new east wing was built. This demand and the number of students were not to last, the decline was so severe that they merged the juniors with the Upholland College, known as the Liverpool Archdiocesan seminary, closing the Ushaw Junior Seminary in 1974. The merger did not last, and the seminary had to close in 1988.

The remainder of Ushaw College will close by 2012.

It reopened as a visitor attraction in late 2014 and, as of 2019, receives around 50,000 visitors a year. The County Durham Music Service and Durham University's Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring are based at the college and buildings at the college are also used by Durham University Business School.