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Ushaw College, throughout its history, has been a strong proponent of the study and development of science in its many forms. Despite the clear boundaries between science and theology, the study of science was an important part of life in the seminary, and the men training here got a well rounded understanding of the natural world and the science behind it. This exhibition examines the study of science at Ushaw, as well as the items used to aid the men in understanding their world.
Termed ‘Natural Philosophy’, the teaching of Science at Ushaw College and its predecessor in France followed common European educational methods. Students were taught by the institutions own lecturers, who had a strong knowledge of the topics they were employed to enlighten upon. Notes which students wrote down in lectures were called ‘dictates’, but they were expected to refer to the lecturers own texts in the library at the college as well. Science classes were taught in English, whereas all other topics the boys encountered at Ushaw were taught in Latin.
The Ushaw Orrery was used for demonstrating the solar system in classes, and was incredibly popular among the boys who were educated here. Dating to 1794 and made by William and Samuel Jones of London, it showed the Earth, Moon, Sun, Mercury and Venus. The detailed model of the earth clearly shows the continents and the oceans, and was one of the most valuable educational tools to be held in the walls.
It comes to a surprise to many people that Ushaw’s library holdings are so rich in secular subjects as well as theology. Science and the natural sciences are very well represented with copies of Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina , Florida and the Bahama Islands (1747), Galileo’s famous Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems (1661), and Robert Dudley’s Dell’arcano del Mare, which contains moving paper vovelles to enable artisans to make actual instruments of navigation. Ushaw College also owns a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), purchased immediately when it came out by Ushaw's Professor of Philosophy, William Wrennall, and his brother in order to debate the new idea of Darwin's natural selection.