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Ushaw College to close in June

By on Thursday, 3 February 2011

St Cuthbert's chapel at Ushaw College (Results Communications)

St Cuthbert's chapel at Ushaw College (Results Communications)

Ushaw College, the 400-year-old seminary that serves the north of England, is to close in the spring, it was confirmed today.

Trustees have set up a steering group to consider what can be done with the buildings and historic treasures at the college.

It will be chaired by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and includes Auxiliary Bishop Tom Williams of Liverpool along with members of the college’s staff. Advising the committee will be Sophie Andreae, deputy chair of the Catholic bishops’ conference Patrimony Committee.

The college owns more than 40,000 books, medieval manuscripts, papers, the archive of the English College at Lisbon from 1628 to 1971 and an extensive collection of books on and by Blessed John Henry Newman. Its grounds cover about 380 acres.

A spokesman for Ushaw said students would be transferred to other seminaries – likely to be Allen Hall in Chelsea, west London, St John’s, Wonersh, Surrey, or St Mary’s Oscott, in Birmingham.

Ushaw was originally established as Douai College in the Spanish Netherlands, now France, in 1568 to train English priests and educate laymen during the reign of Elizabeth I.

It relocated to County Durham just over 200 years ago, in 1808, after staff and students were imprisoned during the Napoleonic wars.

The college trained hundreds of seminarians decades ago but now has only 26 students in formation.


A spokesman for Ushaw College said: “We can confirm that the commercial activities of the Conference Centre have ceased, and the Centre closed, with effect from 31 December 2010. A number of teaching and non-teaching staff remain at Ushaw College, where the activities of St Cuthbert’s Seminary will continue until June 2011.

“The seminarians currently engaged in study at St Cuthbert’s Seminary will continue with their studies as planned. It is proposed that those with studies which are to continue after June 2011 will be transferred to another seminary although the future of their studies is a matter for their respective dioceses.

“The Trustees have established a Steering Group, chaired by Bishop Mark Davies, which includes Bishop Tom Williams along with members of teaching and non-teaching staff at Ushaw College. The Steering Group will also have a representative of the Patrimony Committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, who have indicated that Sophie Andreae, Deputy Chair of the Patrimony Committee, will be asked to support the work of the group. There have also been several offers of assistance from eminent individuals and charities, and further formal announcements may be made in due course should the individuals or charity wish to make their support a matter for public knowledge. The remit of the group is to look strategically at the entire estate, including its buildings, land, libraries, archives and collections, and provide a report to the Trustees about options for its future.

“We are aware that Ushaw College has considerable support within the Roman Catholic community and are grateful for all of the offers to assist at this uncertain and distressing time. It should, however, be said that whilst there are proposals to be discussed, no firm solutions are available at this time. We will not engage in speculative conversations with any organisation or individuals not directly involved in those discussions until the appropriate time. Private meetings and conversations will remain confidential so as not to raise false hopes should discussions fall through and also to allow for full and frank discussions to take place away from the public eye.”

Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Chair of Trustees said: “The proposal to close Ushaw College was one of the most difficult the Trustees have had to contemplate but was one which was based on the inability to sustain Ushaw College’s future. We are working with potential partners to identify a viable solution for the future of Ushaw and are hopeful that a solution can still be found.”

Monsignor John Marsland, President of Ushaw College, added: “We are aware there has been some debate among the wider community about the future of the historic collections of Ushaw College and of the buildings. We are acutely aware of the historical importance and heritage value placed upon the buildings, collection of books, manuscripts, letters and other items we have within our various collections and we are committed to ensuring that they remain intact.”

  • Benedictopraem

    Well with Kelly at the helm am not surprised it’s closing. Liberal (arch)bishops have their financial agenda above and beyond a spiritual agenda of God. Where Will it end? Reform of the Catholic Church in England or another reformation….

  • Anonymous

    “It will be chaired by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and includes the Anglican Bishop Tom Williams”

    The collections at Ushaw are part of the heritage of the Church in this country and many of their contents date form the time when those nice friendly Anglicans were viciously persecuting those true to the Faith. Why is their leader on the steering committee? They had better not be considering handing Church treasures over to the care of heretics.

  • J Mccarthy

    I think that you will find that Bishop Tom Williams is in fact the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop for Liverpool, rather than an Anglican Bishop.

  • Mgr_scouse

    Only 2 years left for +Patrick, then a return to a traditionalist which Liverpool hasn’t seen in a long time.

  • A.

    I hope it doesn’t go the same way as the junior seminary next door, which closed a few years ago and was just left to be vandalised.

  • The Catholic Herald

    Thank you for pointing that out. It has now been corrected.

  • Anonymous

    Does Pope Benedict XVI know that this historic seminary is set for closure? Might it be due to lack of vocations? Could that lack just, possibly, by stretching the imagination, be another of the fruits of Vatican II?

    Could there be a connection between replacing instruction in the Faith in our Catholic schools with comparative religious studies, thereby snuffing out any desire to serve God as a priest, and the fall in the number of vocations?

    The sooner the Pope recognises the connection, annuls Vatican II and all its fruits, and restores all things to Christ, the better it will be for Holy Mother Church.

  • Anonymous

    I do hope that is not just wishful thinking.

  • Richard

    Don’t forfet to sign the petition.

  • Werburgh465

    AUXILIARY, dear boy, not Anglican!!!

  • David Armitage

    There are more than 600 members of St Cuthbert’s society,alumni of Ushaw, dedicated to promoting the future defunct seminary. Their cries of lamentation were strident when the news broke furtively in the Northern Echo The hierarchy appointed “trustees”(a misnomer) allowed the place to fall into ruin. They carry on as though they had built and paid for the place. It is good to know that a steering committee has been set up, composed of members of the hierarchy and seminary staff and employees. The faithful have quite naturally not been appointed. Naturally, because they have grown used to being kept in the dark. There is a token Anglican of course. But what right have the generations of the faithful whose generosity built and ran the place to be consulted?
    Here’s a snippet from the invitation the 600 members of St Cuthberts to one final bash:”The good news however is that there will still be a Grand Week/Day to celebrate the feast of St Cuthbert on March 21st. This will be the last one in its present form so there could be a lot of interest in participating. If you would like to come please complete the booking form and return it as soon as possible”
    What about a sit-in picnic in the Pugin-built refectory, while the clergy and clerical wannabes scoff their £14 last buffet?

  • David Armitage

    It’s good to know the Bishops’ conference has a patrimony committee, whose job it is

    •To give advice to the Bishops’ Conference, as necessary, on the care, conservation and repair of the patrimony of the Church whether this be buildings, artefacts or records.

    It is comforting to know that it will be represented on the steering committee.

    Was it called in before Ushaw went into decline?

  • louella

    Could the College not be turned into a Catholic University campus and small town… in Ave Maria in Florida?! I’m sure many Catholics would be interested in living and working there!

  • Thoresbymanvers24

    does the closure of Ushaw usher in the closure of the Roman CatholicChurch in England? Todays Church is wholly different from that into which I was baptised nearly 100 years.Did I hear somebody shout “and better”?

  • Anonymous

    With all seminaries now closed in Scotland, Ushaw closed in England, bishops speaking of deferring Mass cancellations thanks only to the new Ordinariate, churches closing all over the place and Irish priests speaking of the New Mass translation as “elitist and sexist,” is anyone yet beginning to see the REAL spirit behind Vatican II?

  • Anonymous

    You’re right, of course, but “another reformation?” It’s not another reformation we’ve been witnessing since Vatican II, but an internal application to the universal Catholic religion of that which was begun by Cranmer, Luther, et al., some 450 years ago.

  • LeFloch

    Such are the fruits of Vatican II.

  • Rich

    Quick question for the committee – are we still building seminaries in third world countries?

  • Anonymous

    The hierarchy in Britain is amongst the most liberal in the world. It has become a law unto itself, and quite pompous with it. It’s alright for the laity to take over the priest’s role in the Sanctuary, but God forbid that lay people should be allowed to have a say in other aspects of the demise of Catholicism in Britain, especially when it comes to dispensing with good real estate!!

  • Anonymous

    Surely only those who had forgotten to take their medication would shout “and better”?

  • Englishcatholic

    It comforts me to know that the FSSP and other Traditional Orders are thriving. They have many vocations and the number will continue to grow. When will our Bishops understand that the Church in England and Wales would flourish if they followed the example set by the Saints of old? The liberal agenda is a cancer and it is killing the Church in this country.

  • David Armitage

    Generations of the faithful built and sustained Ushaw, and many provided their sons and paid for their education. Do you really imagine that the trustees have fulfilled their trust? The minor seminary was allowed to fall into decay and be vandalised. How long did it take for numbers of candidates for the priesthood to decline from 400 to 26? It smells like wilful neglect, and the trustees should be held to account. The hierarchy is adept at coverup. Don’t let them get away with it!

  • David Armitage

    Have you ever been to the place? Many Catholics left the area long ago, those that could, in search of work!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t let them get away with it whenever it is possible for me act. The problem is that the liberal Catholic press in Britain makes sure that they do get away with it. Too many editors go along to get along and that makes it very difficult for truth to flourish.

  • struggling Catholic

    …please see
    for yet another manifestation. Please remember the Vaughan in your prayers, and support us where possible.

  • struggling Catholic

    wonderful idea…with an over-riding Catholic ethos with Mass offered on campus daily.

  • louella

    No…..I’ve never been there! Still a thriving Catholic University…and town…. could attract people from all over!

  • Anonymous

    Having read much of the data at the weblink you provided, and having read the religious education programme for Catholic boys at the Vaughan, I can well understand why you brave parents are taking the stand you are. I could hardly believe that these young Catholics are being taught the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and that this is complimented with “respectful” reviews of the Reformation and other religions. It seems the works of the Lutheran-raised, but more or less atheistic, Kant are no longer considered worthy of the Church’s ‘Index’ of dangerous publications. That Catholic teachers are now teaching this man to Catholic boys at Vaughan says all that needs saying about Archbishop Nichols and his cohorts. Keep up the good work!

  • Johncjohnstone

    Please don’t close ushaw college. find other ways and options to keep it viable and open. It is part of our heritage.

  • anglicanorum

    who cares about Ushaw? dont we have the Ordinariate to rescue the declining situation?and they are English.