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Current Exhibitions

Throughout the year, Ushaw runs a series of exhibitions, ranging from accounts of the more notable of our alumni, through to art exhibitions of different themes. Visitors can come and see our exhibitions during standard opening hours. Our current exhibitions are detailed below, along with the dates between which they are here:


Mat Collishaw - The Nerve Rack

A new commission by acclaimed artist Mat Collishaw explores the themes of martyrdom and treason, worship and heresy, inspired by Ushaw's history.

The Nerve Rack is a life-sized animatronic eagle inspired by one of the treasures of Ushaw; a lectern topped with a bronze sculpture of an eagle, designed by Augustus Pugin, and an Elizabethan book from the library's collection. Mat explains "I was drawn to a document in the library, The Sincere and Modest Defence of English Catholics (1584), annotated by Elizabeth's chief priest hunter and torturer - Richard Topcliffe. It outlines the two diametrically opposing viewpoints that defined religious belief in England at the time. When church and state are bound together the consequences are magnified, Protestantism and Catholicism, martyrdom and heresy - they are two sides of the same coin. It was this mirroring of religious conviction that I wanted to work with." 

The Nerve Rack highlights the dangers of extremism and intransigence. The two eagles confront each other inside a large barrier, as though engaged in conflict in an arena. The Nerve Rack is Pugin's golden eagle stripped of its embellishment to reveal a chilling, machine-driven, steel armature. Whilst tormenting a small mechanical mouse, Collishaw's eagle stares at its adversary and raises its wings to full span in a bid to intimidate its more stoic opponent. The mechanistic nature of Collishaw's 'mirror image' of Pugin's eagle suggests a cold and clinical ruthlessness, which echoes the fanatical enmity that existed between the two opposing viewpoints of Christianity. 

The animatronic eagle has been fabricated by Adam Keenan, an animatronics expert responsible for creating monsters for Star War and Doctor Who. 

A Sublime Legacy: Treasures from Ushaw’s Fine Art Collection

17 September - 16 November 2019

A Sublime Legacy is an exhibition of paintings from Ushaw’s extensive fine art and design collections. Although the majority of the exhibits are of religious subjects, reflecting Ushaw’s historic role as a Catholic seminary, A Sublime Legacy illustrates the range of the works that illuminated the College’s corridors and rooms.  Dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, the exhibition includes landscapes, cityscapes, still lives and architectural studies of the interior and exterior of Ushaw. 

A Sublime Legacy explores the genesis of the College’s collection in the nineteenth century and illustrates some of the challenges and opportunities the works present in Ushaw’s new role as a publicly accessible museum.


On display in the William Allen Gallery

Life at Ushaw

A new display giving an insight into the day to day life of the different people living here when Ushaw was a seminary and boarding school. Visitors can find out more about the lessons that were taught, the sports that were played and the army of domestic workers that were needed to keep such a vast estate running.

Throughout the exhibition visitors can listen to the stories, experiences and recollections of the people who worked or studied at Ushaw from the College professors to the housemaids who worked in the laundry. These have been collected as part of our oral history project Divine Voices which has been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Open from 29th March in the Pontop Room

Faith in Exile

In 1568, the small textile town of Douai in Northern France was transformed into a hub of intrigue and rebellion. During the reign of Elizabeth I, the Catholic religion was outlawed and harbouring a Catholic Priest was made punishable by death. As a result, English Catholics had to practice their faith in secret, with many fleeing to the safety of Catholic Europe. This included William Allen, a former member of Queen Mary I government and later Cardinal in the Catholic Church. Allen wanted to make sure the Catholic faith was kept alive in England and therefore established Douai College as a school and seminary for English Catholics.

Douai College became a centre for plots against the Tudor and Stuart governments and sent numerous missionaries secretly back to England with many becoming martyrs to the cause. During the French Revolution, war with England led to the students being forced to leave the College in fear of their lives.  By the 18th century laws against Catholicism started to relax in England which meant the student body could return and subsequently establish Ushaw College in the North and St. Edmund’s Ware in the South.

As of the 5th of July 2018, the silver has been moved into our chapels. 

Chris Younger

The Chris Younger Photography Exhibition 'Ambiguity and Uncertainty in the Deerness Valley' started 19th April 2018, end time currently to be confirmed. Images will be on display along the corridor leading between the gallery and the refectory, with some prints available in our gift shop. 

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