Ushaw's History

Ushaw College trained men for the Roman Catholic priesthood for more than two centuries, from its establishment in 1808 until 2011. For much of that time it also functioned as a boarding school for boys, learning from some of the most intelligent men in the country, as well as a seminary for men destined for the Catholic priesthood.

The unique system of educating future lay and clerical students alongside each other, almost unique to Ushaw in the UK, was at odds with both the spirit and the letter of the seminary legislation of the sixteenth-century Council of Trent, which aspired to create a separate clerical caste, free from worldly contacts, lay ambitions and lay habits of life.

Ushaw’s mixed system was inherited from the English Roman Catholic colleges established in Europe following the persecution of the Catholics in the UK. Much of Ushaw's training style and class structure can be taken from these establishments, particularly that of Douai College, from which Ushaw was the descendant in northern England.

After a brief residential period at Crook Hall, which was not perfect for the purpose that was required, Bishop William Gibson began to build what would later become Ushaw College, which he christened St. Cuthbert's College. After various periods of expansion, Ushaw became what it is today, with a wealth of Pugin architecture and a grand selection of Chapels. The training of priests and schooling of young boys destined for the seminary continued at Ushaw until 2011, when the establishment closed due to a lack of vocations within the Catholic Church for the men it had trained.

Since closure, Ushaw has been transformed into a centre for heritage and culture in the North-East, with a selection of performances and religious events taking place here. It now also offers public tours, and boasts a spectacularly well maintained garden alongside the exhibitions we have now opened. Our team of volunteers has helped us rebuild Ushaw to it's former glory, and turned it into one of the most beautiful and spiritual places in England. 

A Brief Timeline of Ushaw's History:

635 St Aidan founds the monastery on Lindisfarne

664: Synod of Whitby; St Cuthbert (635-687) is sent to Lindisfarne

681: Foundation of St Paul’s Church, Jarrow

725: St Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People

1093: Foundation of Durham Cathedral

1529: English Reformation: Henry VIII declares himself Supreme    Head of the English Church

1533: Pope Clement VII excommunicates Henry               

1559: Elizabeth I Act of Supremacy, declares herself Supreme Governor Church of England

1568: William Allen founds The English College at Douai

By 1700: 160 Douai Priests martyred in England

1778 Catholic Relief Act: removed penalty of life imprisonment

from Catholic bishops, priests and schoolmasters

1791 Catholic Relief Act: the Catholic Mass became legal in registered chapels

1794 Douai staff and students occupy Crook Hall, near Consett

1808 Ushaw opens

1829 Catholic Emancipation Act: Catholics could sit as MPs and  hold most public offices

1837 Charles Newsham develops Ushaw

1850 Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy by Pope Pius IX

1859 Junior Seminary opens at Ushaw 1902

1978 Ushaw students attend Durham University

1988 Ecumenical links with partners in Anglican and Methodist Colleges

2008 Ushaw Bicentenary

2011 Ushaw closes as a seminary for the Church

2015 Ushaw Reopens to the public

The Reading Room  now the Francis Thompson Room

The Main House before the building of "Tip Top" in 1906