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On entering the College at the age of eleven, boys would first go into the Junior House, a preparatory school for the under fourteen which was designed to be independent from the main College. Built in 1857-59 by Edward Pugin, it had its own chapel dedicated to St. Aloysius, a library, dormitory, classrooms, and gymnasium. Although there was an original intention to provide all meals in the Junior Seminary, this was soon abandoned, and at meal times the junior boys would walk over to the main College refectory. Meals were generally eaten in silence while a reader read passages from scripture or from approved secular works. The silence led to the students devising their own sign language for such requirements as ‘pass the butter’.
The Junior House closed in 1972 as school provisions centred on Upholland College near Skelmersdale, and the College moved to focus on theological training for seminary students over eighteen. Life in the Junior school was of a very regimented nature, with rigorous timetables for studies and attendance in chapel, and rules relating to class interaction and “bounds”. Sport was very important in the school life; some students later remarked that sport was compulsory 6 afternoons a week, and optional on Sundays.
Ushaw followed the traditions of its predecessor in France, Douai College, and operated as both a Catholic boarding school for ages up to eighteen, and a seminary for boys preparing for ordination to the priesthood who would carry on theological training up to the age of twenty-four. Until the late 19th century Catholic men did not attend English Universities, as a result Ushaw set its studies to a university level providing a wide range of subjects. Emphasis was on the classical studies of Greek, Latin, arithmetic, and history of the ancient world. Science was also an important subject with specially built laboratories and a College museum of natural history. Music, art, dancing and fencing were taught as optional subjects to provide a rounded education for the sons of Catholic gentry.