Ushaw College

(College of St. Cuthbert)

A combined college and seminary for the six dioceses that were comprised in the old Northern Vicariate of England. The government is vested in a united board of the bishops of these dioceses, with a president, a vice-president, and staff of about 30 professors. The average number of students is over 300, divided into three courses: the preparatory course, including about 80 boys, the humanity course with about 130, and the philosophical and theological with about 100.


The suppression of the "Grands Anglais" at Douai the seminary which for 200 years had meant the Catholic Faith to England, was only one of the many far-reaching results that the French Revolution brought in its train. The immediate necessity under which the English Catholics found themselves of providing for the continuation of its work led to a project of establishing one college for the whole of England on English soil. Many difficulties supervened and finally the question arranged itself by the division of the refugee students from Douai into two bodies, one of which found shelter at Old Hall near Ware, while the remainder (mainly composed of students who were destined for the Northern Vicariate), after temporary sojourns at Tudhoe and Pontop, two villages in the vicinity of Durham, settled on 15 Oct., 1794, at Crook Hall, about eleven miles N.W. of that city. There they re-established Douai for the north of England, and it lived its life under the guidance of one of its former professors, Thomas Eyre, of John Lingard, the future historian, and of John Daniel, the actual president of Douai at its suppression, who seems to have been formally installed as president for a few days. Ten years' growth made Crook Hall inadequate for its purpose, and in 1804 Bishop William Gibson began the buildings at Ushaw to which four years later, the colony finally migrated, the first detachment on 19 July, the rest on 2 August, 1808. There they found three sides of a massive quadrangle, with a frontage of about 170 feet and a depth of 220, ready for their habitation. The fourth side of this quadrangle was not added till 1819, under the president who succeeded Eyre in 1811, Dr. John Gillow; but no further material addition was made to the buildings until the fourth president, Charles Newsham, succeeded in 1837. He realized that, if Ushaw was adequately to continue its career, no pains nor expense must be spared to enlarge its capacity and to bring its arrangements into line with more modern requirements. The pioneers of the Gothic revival were at hand to assist him in this, and from the plans of the two Pugins and the two Hansoms the second church with its attendant chapels, the library, infirmary, museum, exhibition hall, lavatories, kitchens, and farm buildings, and a separate establishment for the younger boys, all sprang up around the old Georgian quadrangle.

In much more than a convention sense Monsignor Newsham may be called the founder of modern Ushaw; and the best evidence of how far-seeing were his plans and achievements lies in the fact that for twenty years after his death, in 1863, practically no addition was made to the fabric. In 1883 Monsignor Wrennal found it necessary to build a third church. Under Bishop Wilkinson, who assumed the presidency in 1890, which he held conjointly with the Bishopric of Hexham and Newcastle till his death in 1909, a fresh period of activity began. A covered swimming bath, a gymnasium, two new dormitories, and over forty new living rooms, the enlargement of the exhibition hall, the elaborate decoration of the church with the erection of a new high altar, are all the products of his nineteen years of presidency. Two presidents have held office since his death: Monsignor Joseph Corbishly, who survived him only a year, and Monsignor William Henry Brown, under whom new lecture rooms have been erected to accommodate the largely increased numbers of philosophy and divinity students. Altogether the present blocks of buildings, with their enclosed courts, cover a rectangle 880 feet long by 420 feet broad; the outbuildings, grounds, and campus cover over 100 acres, and the whole estate, with its home and outlying farms, includes between 1200 and 1300 acres.

Many objects of historical and artistic interest are preserved in the college. Lingard bequeathed to it all his books and papers, which included an early MS. and the proof sheets of his "History of England" with about 1500 of his letters; Wiseman is represented by the MSS. of "Fabiola" and the "Hidden Gem", and of many sermons, lectures, and letters, while Eyre gathered for it a valuable collection of documents dealing with the English Catholic history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and intended for a continuation of Dodd's "Church History". The library, in which these are stored, contains about 45,000 volumes, mainly of theological and historical interest. It is especially rich in early printed liturgical books and in seventeenth-century controversy. Examples of Wynken de Worde's "York Manual", Higden's "Polychronicon", the "Nuremburg Chronicle", the "Ulm Cosmographs", the "Complutensian Polyglot", are found on its shelves, and, perhaps more interesting than all, about forty works that belonged to the pre-Reformation library of Durham Abbey and which still retain the original monastic bindings. The manuscripts include, in addition to the collection already mentioned, a large number of old English missals, psalters, and books of hours, as well as many documents connected with the history of the colleges at Douai, Lisbon, and Valladolid, and with the progress of Catholicism in the north of England. The museum, too, is rich in relics of persecution times, several missals and altar stones and an old wooden crozier that belonged to Bishop Dicconson being among the most remarkable. The church treasury contains several splendid examples of church plate, a chalice assigned to Benvenuto Cellini taking the place of honour. It also preserves a chasuble that tradition connects with Westminster Abbey and another that belonged to Cuthbert Tunstall, the last Catholic Bishop of Durham. The collection of relics is one of the largest extant in private hands, and includes a large relic of the True Cross and a ring that was taken from the body of St. Cuthbert when the tomb at Durham was rifled during the Reformation.


In her system of education Ushaw has clung tenaciously, though progressively, to the traditions she inherited from the "Alma Mater Duacensis" which she was founded to replace. No other college in England has found it possible permanently to retain, throughout the whole of its career, the essential characteristic of the Douai system — the co-education of clerical and lay students throughout their humanities. the classical element still predominates in the course, and even the old class names, rhetoric, poetry, syntax, grammar, and figures, are still retained. For nearly fifty years after leaving France the Douai authors were read and the Douai time-table observed with scarcely an alteration. Then the second spring began to make its influence felt in education as in all other things Catholic. Catholic colleges were affiliated to London University in 1840, and Catholic scholarship was at last able to find a criterion to test its standing. Ushaw found she had no reason to shrink from the comparison. Her first two candidates for a degree in arts obtained a first class, and their example was so persistently followed that twenty years later the London examinations in arts were made the standard for the course. Roughly speaking, during the thirty-three years from 1863 to 1896, three-fourths of the candidates presented were successful, the exact numbers being 574 and 717. But in the latter year several causes combined to make another standard of comparison desirable, and, in accordance with a general movement among the Catholic colleges, Ushaw substituted the Oxford local and certificate papers for the London examinations. About the same time, availing herself of the privilege newly granted by the Holy See, Ushaw utilized the university training which she found close at hand. The college was affiliated to Durham University in 1900, and during the next ten years 22 students took the degree of arts, 16 obtaining classical honours at the final examination, and 27 scholarships of the aggregate value of over 1000 have been secured. But once more the necessity of spending much time on uncongenial subjects has compelled a change of front and the college has returned to the London University course, which during the interval has been entirely remodelled.

The history of the philosophical and theological courses, which occupy two and four years respectively, follows on very similar lines. The Douai theses and the customs of "dictates" held for the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The value of the course was soon recognized. By a Brief dated Feb., 1813, Pius VII gave Ushaw and old Hall he power of granting degrees in theology, through there is no record of the privileges ever having been exercised. The introduction of more modern methods began with Monsignor Newsham and today the various chairs are held by professors who have received their training at Ushaw and graduated at foreign universities. With very few exceptions professors have always been chosen from former alumni. Generally speaking, the more promising students are selected for special training at the end of their humanities, then, after studying philosophy, they teach the lower schools for three years, with the title of "minor" professors. They then proceed to their divinity, where a further selection is made for specialized study, which is generally taken at some university on the Continent. Long experience has shown the advantage of this system of training professors; another inheritance from the traditions of Douai.

Prominent Alumni

The roll of alumni (1912) includes close on to 5000 names. It embraces over 1000 priests, 30 bishops, 5 archbishops, and 4 cardinals: Wiseman, De la Puente, Bourne, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, and the Cardinal Secretary of State, Merry del Val, who was not only a student but also a "minor" professor at Ushaw. prominent names in almost every profession and almost every country can be found there. Law is represented in England by Mr. Justice Shee, the first Catholic post-Reformation judge; by Judge O'Connor, former deputy chairman of committees in the House of Commons; in India by Mr. Justice John Power Wallis, Judge of the High Court of Madras; in Canada by the Hon. James Foy, Attorney-general of Ontario; in the United States by Joseph Scott of Los Angeles, a prominent official of the Knights of Columbus. Statesmanship is represented by the present Under-Secretary for the Home Office, William Patrick Byrne, C. B.; the services by General Montague Gerard, K. C. B., Major Miles O'Reilly; commander of the Irish Brigade at Castelfidardo, and Commodore Edward f. Charlton, Commodore of the Eastern Destroyer Flotilla; art by Charles Napier Hemy, the Royal Academician; architecture by George and Edward Goldie and the youngest Pugin; literature by such names as Lingard the historian, Francis Thompson the poet, Wilfred Ward the present editor of the "Dublin Review", and Joseph Gillow, the compiler of the well-known "Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics".

LAING, Ushaw College, A Centenary Memorial (Newcastle, 1894); BUTLER, Records and Recollections of Ushaw (Durham, 1885); J. Gillow, Haydock Papers (London, 1888); OAKLEY, Introduction to Wiseman, Hidden Gem (London, 1859); WILBERFORCE, Ushaw College in Dublin Review, XLV (1858); BONNEY, Life and Letters of Lingard (London, 1911); WARD, Life and Times of Card. Wiseman (London, 1899); GILLOW, Bibl. Dict. Engl. Cath. (London, 1885); Ushaw Magazine, I-XXI (1891), sq. Catholic Who's Who (1911); Catholic Magazine, I, II (1831-2); Cath. Miscellany, III (1824); Catholic University Bulletin (1908).

E. Bonney.

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