Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Treasures of Ushaw

A few weeks ago I received my copy of the new book `Treasures of Ushaw College`. (Available for £20 from Durham University or from £11.43 via Amazon). Last year we had a preview of the contents in a talk at the North East Catholic History Society which whetted my appetite. While I can`t say I flourished during my time at Ushaw I was interested in what was there and always thought there must be more than was immediately apparent. The fifteenth century Westminiser vestment which made the news recently being worn by cardinal Nichols at his Mass for the repose of Richard III)
Cardinal Nichols wearing the Westminister vestment
appeared at Mass for Douai Martyrs. At the gallery on the first floor the items relating to the Earl of Derwentwater were on display. The Big Library we knew contained ancient tomes and `St Cuthbert`s Ring` was used by ordaining bishops but what else could there be? I was always keen to know and enjoyed showing what was visible to visitors as a college guide. But there was a lot more and this reveals much of it. I remember the seventeenth century Antwerp monstrance whcih was discovered in a jewellers in the 1830s being sold as a watch stand and the multi-coloured all-purpose recusant chasuble but knew nothing of the eighteenth century Sloane cope or the Augsburg chalice of c.1700.
The Sloane Chalice, commissioned for Pope Paul V, 1605-1621
The paintings of Rohden  which seemed just part of the fixtures acquire a new attractiveness when presented in this book.

Ushaw seems to be more at ease with its history now the seminary has closed. In my day we were only allowed to look forward as we sat at our coffee table Masses and were led to believe that we had outgrown our past.

This book will be of interest to any past student of Ushaw with an interest in its history. One item I thought to see in the book which doesn`t make it is the cassock of St Pius X sent by ex-Ushawman Cardinal Merry del Val and housed in its tiny purpose built chapel for most of its time there. However that may be one for the next volume!


  1. We were at Ushaw yesterday with the LSP residents but, sadly, were restricted to the ground floor because of their infirmities. I'm sure you will recall that we tried to locate the cassock of Pope St Pius X when we had the training day at Darlington. We were told it was missing but then traced its route to a former seminarian. Our next enquiry was met with the response that it was being 'preserved & repaired''. No further word.

  2. I visited Ushaw on Saturday with two Methodist friends. I have been reluctant to go inrecent years - not so much because I didn't enjoy my time there - 1958 - 1964, in fact the opposite. I thoroughly enjoyed the old place, and believe it did a lot for me. No, I was reluctant because I had a feeling that things had changed so much that I would be saddened.
    However, on Saturday, it seemed different. The chapels, cloister and of course St Cuthberts looked cared for, and there seemed to be an atmosphere of hope for the future.

    My Methodist friends were very impressed, and one said, sitting in St Cuthbert's, "I feel in the presence of God here."

    I will definitely return, more frequently.
    Anyone know what happened to the "fourpence halfpenny" chalice?

  3. Can anyone attend the history society meetings? If so where & when?

  4. Yes anyone may attend although we ask non-members for a donation of £1 per lecture. Membership is £6 pa.Read all about it here:


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