Monsignor John Marsland, the President of Ushaw College writes...
Since the seminary closed in 2011, Ushaw College's Trustees have been seeking a way forward for suitable and sustainable uses for the wonderful chapels, unique buildings and the farmland at Ushaw. Ushaw is still an independent charitable trust - it gets no financial assistance from diocesan funds, and remains self-supporting. We have no endowment or wealthy benefactor so every penny must be earned. The plan that has emerged is to develop a series of different uses – tourism, commercial and spiritual - which importantly open the buildings to the public and make good use of the space here.Ushaw is now open to the public four days a week; Wednesday – Saturdays 11.00am to 4.00pm. It hosts general and specialist tours and visits for individuals and groups. Last year 39,000 people visited the site. There are concerts, talks and events including folk, jazz, classical and brass often on Saturday afternoons. The unique collection of books, church plate, vestments and pictures is displayed in exhibitions throughout the building. We also commission contemporary art to be shown in our galleries and exhibition spaces. The Refectory serves excellent home cooked food every day apart from Sunday – splendid afternoon teas on Saturdays!There is Mass in the Lady Chapel every Friday lunchtime said by the Chaplain Canon Bob Spence; prayer of the church and occasional days of reflection. The Victorian gardens are being restored by an active and talented group of volunteer gardeners and they open to the public every day of the week.
Ushaw welcomes receptions and celebrations to mark important occasions, including weddings. We host meetings, and conferences for independent groups, churches and charities.
The Trustees have agreed that Ushaw becomes the repository for church vestments, books and artefacts from churches in the North, preserving precious treasures and displaying them alongside Ushaw’s unique collection.
In addition Ushaw has 49 en-suite bedrooms and a small number of permanent residents including Archivist Fr Michael Sharratt. High spec offices are available for rent, along with artist’s studios and we are seeking funding for a Music and Education Centre. Our farmland and cottages are rented out and bring in a much needed income. We have a 10-year partnership with Durham University who occupy the 1960s East Wing. Durham Music Service are our tenants along with their 15,000 musical instruments.
Much progress has been made over the last few years and there is real hope and optimism for the future. If people are wondering what is happening and how they can help, perhaps we can offer the following
- Come and be surprised! For all that many people know of Ushaw, it remains a hidden gem. Why not make a visit, or arrange a tour – the Flower festival in June will be magnificent – come along and take a look.
- Become a member. For a payment of £5 (£12 for a family) you can obtain an annual pass which allows you to come to Ushaw as many times as you like in one year, visit the exhibitions, see the chapels and soak up the wonderful atmosphere.
- Volunteer! We have 50 people who regularly guide, steward, garden, work with the collections and in the library- they are committed and loyal and really enjoy being part of the team.
- Become Friend of Ushaw. £2 per month gives an annual membership; you receive a twice yearly newsletter, invitations to previews and to the annual Benefactors and Friends Mass.
- Become a Champion for Ushaw: volunteer to receive regular updates, information and spread the word! A Champion in every parish would be wonderful.
Please keep Ushaw in your prayers: from its original foundation in France, Ushaw has been teaching and witnessing the Gospel for 450 years –we want that Christian tradition and heritage to continue and flourish. Support us if you are able and come along and see the wonderful architecture, be enthralled by the extraordinary history and help us maintain this wonderful Christian place for the future. Details are on our website, www.ushaw.org or by telephone 0191 373 8500.