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Ushaw was founded from the former College at Douai in France and was purpose- built in its beautiful setting four miles from the City of Durham. Ushaw underwent major expansion, beginning in 1845 and continuing through the remainder of the 19th century, and boasts significant examples of the work of Gothic revival architects including the Pugin and Hansom families. Augustus Pugin began this with the first chapel on the site, which was later replaced by a much larger chapel by Dunn and Hansom in the 1880’s. Other notable buildings include the Refectory, the Hall and the Library, all completed by 1860, and each contributing to the wealth of the architecture and setting. The majority of our buildings are listed, and Ushaw was developed with the specific intention of providing a self sustaining existence, with farms, gardens and designed landscape.
The original building at Ushaw was in fact a Georgian country house, set out around a central quadrangle. It was built by local craftsmen to the design of James Taylor of Islington, London, who had designed a similar building for our sister College of St. Edmunds, Ware, in Hertfordshire. The house contained all that was required, including accommodation and public rooms, and the chapel, kitchen and refectory in the north range. This house remained largely unchanged until the 1840’s, when the President at the time, Monsignor Charles Newsham, began a programme of building work which was to transform Ushaw.
Newsham was responding to the increasing demand for Catholic education, following the relaxation of some of the laws relating to the practising of the faith. He sought the services of Augustus Welby Pugin, one of the most prominent architects of the Gothic Revival style which was rapidly gaining fashion. There was considerable opposition to Pugin’s style of work within the Catholic church: some saw his architecture as too outlandish and decorative, and also too expensive, but Newsham persisted in his wish.
Newsham’s vision for Ushaw that were developed with the Pugins extended beyond his lifetime, although most of his plans for the College had been realised. His legacy to Ushaw was in the excellent standards of education within the setting of a rich heritage of gothic buildings, coupled with a significant level of debt which would not finally be cleared until the 1930’s
The following years were a period of relative quiet, but in 1879 discussions began again about the Chapel of St Cuthbert, which was no longer large enough for the growing community. Various solutions were proposed, including the extension of the existing chapel, but it was decided in 1880 to completely take down the chapel built by A W Pugin, and rebuild to twice the size. This work was undertaken by the firm of Dunn and Hansom, wherever possible using the structure, stained glass, metalwork, and furnishing from the original. The result was something of an amalgamation of styles, but not a compromise: the chapel is an architectural highlight in its own right and, apart from subsequent redecoration, remains largely unchanged to the present day. In one of these decorations, there was the introduction of an “Arts and Crafts” theme to part of the decoration, conducted by Joseph Bentley.