Friday, January 28, 2011

Laity Campaign to Save the Seminary of St Cuthbert, Ushaw, Co. Durham

I have been meaning to say something about this initiative for awhile now, as it most certainly seems like a worthy one as the intent is to save an architectural treasure and preserve its use for Catholic worship. Some background on Ushaw:

The Seminary of St Cuthbert at Ushaw, four miles from the City of Durham in the north of England, and commonly known as Ushaw College, occupies a 500 acre site at the top of a hill, near the village of Bear Park. The village takes its name from the hunting grounds of the Prince Bishops of Durham of pre-Reformation times. First opened in 1808, the college is a successor of the English College in Douai, northern France, which was forced to close at the time of the French Revolution. Until recently, it served eight dioceses in the north of England, and was by far the largest seminary on English soil, accommodating as many as 400 students in 1960.

The original buildings are Georgian in style and are arranged around a central lawn. As numbers increased, additional storeys were added and new wings built to provide more sleeping accommodation and much else. A new chapel by Augustus Pugin in the decorated style was opened in 1848, but was soon found to be too small for the expanding seminary. It was replaced in 1884 by the magnificent chapel dedicated to St Cuthbert that we see today. Designed by Dunn and Hansom, it incorporates many features, including the seven light west window and other stained glass salvaged from Pugin’s chapel. The brothers Joseph and Charles Hansom were responsible for the library, another gothic addition, which was opened in 1851. This impressive building contains a valuable collection of books and medieval manuscripts. There is also a cassock of Pope St Pius X which was given to the college by Cardinal Merry del Val, his Secretary of State. In 1859 a new and self contained junior seminary was opened to accommodate 150 boys. This was built to the design of Peter Paul Pugin, and included its own chapel dedicated to St Aloysius. Ushaw College gained its final form in 1964, when a five storey block containing 75 study bedroom and additional classrooms was built.

Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some photos.

A striking example of the gothic revival.

As noted, a petition has been written in an effort to save this beautiful structure. The petition reads as follows:

To The Most Rev Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, and the trustees of Ushaw College.

We, the undersigned, are concerned by the news that Ushaw College, including the seminary of St Cuthbert, is to close in June 2011, and that the ancillary activities, including the successful conference and tourism businesses, are to close at the earlier date of 31st December 2010. In expressing this concern, we are mindful that the extensive buildings, including the architecturally meritorious chapel dedicated to St Cuthbert, were paid for by earlier generations of Catholics, who, no doubt, expected their generosity to extend to future generations in perpetuity. We are also mindful of the immense contribution that Ushaw College has made in the past 200 years to the cultural, educational and religious history of the north of England, particularly as the alma mater of many thousands of Catholic priests.

In particular, we are concerned by the following:-

1. The absence of any consultation or discussion prior to the decision being made,
2. The prospect of St Cuthbert’s Chapel no longer being available for Catholic worship,
3. The apparent lack of consideration given to ways of securing a future for the college,
4. The loss of more than 60 jobs in an area where alternative employment is scarce.

In the light of these considerations, we urge that the trustees of Ushaw College forestall its closure until such time as:-

1. a proper study has been made of options that would enable it to continue to serve the Catholic population of northern England,
2. there has been the opportunity for the closure to be debated publicly.

Those interested in the petition may find it here:

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