HistoricHouse & Chapels
More than 200 years ago, Ushaw was born in secret, as a religious community for training priests.
A place of wonder,
waiting to be discovered.
Ushaw's Founding Story
Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, swapped Roman Catholicism for their new Church of England. Gunpowder plots, uprisings and rebellions followed and failed. Catholics were exiled and hunted. The forefathers of Ushaw spent 300 years, living in Northern France, in a town called Douai.
Forced out of Douai by the French Revolution, they set sail across the channel back to England – looking for a new home. The Douai refugees found 19th century Protestant England to be cold and unwelcoming.
Eventually, on a high hill, four miles west of Durham and its dramatic Norman Cathedral and Castle — near a place called Ushaw Moor — they bought land from a sympathetic nobleman. There they built an historic house, chapels and gardens and created a new Catholic seminary (school for priests). The first stone was laid in 1804. By 1808, St Cuthbert’s College was open to serve the Northern Diocese.
Ushaw-in good times
Gardens, Café, Bookshop & Gift Shop
House, Chapels & Displays
Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels & Gardens,
near Durham City
A Story of Secrecy to Splendour
Afraid of local anti-catholic reaction, one of the leaders of the Douai priests — Bishop William Gibson — masterminded an ingenious plan to keep his new community safe.
They planted a long row of Beech trees and behind it built a Georgian period Country house — in keeping with the fashion of the day — disguising its true identity and purpose.
They quietly resettled into English life and society, keeping themselves to themselves, behind Bishop Gibson’s wall of Beech.
Things improved for Catholics in the 19th century, especially after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 — which enabled Catholics to hold public office, serve as MP’s and enrol for University degrees.
Over the next two centuries, Ushaw expanded with great ambition, into a fully self-sustaining community of around 500 acres with a working farm, infirmary, museum, library, formal gardens, lake, golf course, tennis courts, sports grounds and a post and telegram office.
Ushaw’s growth was a sign of the growing confidence and wealth held in the English Roman Catholic Church by the middle of the 1800’s – and is the reason for the breath-taking estate you can visit today.
Book a Guided Tour
The main House and associated buildings are accessible to all. They are a permanent home for our exhibitions, art and world renowned library. Ushaw is one of Britain’s best places to see Gothic Revival, Georgian and Victorian architecture.
You can take a guided tour or wander freely through corridors, chapels and cloisters experiencing unbroken peace and tranquillity. Children and families can collect clues, solve mysteries and unravel our treasure and learning trails.
Much of the splendid design, architecture and craftsmanship on show at Ushaw is the work of Augustus Pugin, his sons and grandsons.
Pugin was the grand designer of his time and architect to the great and good of Victorian England. His works include the clock face of Big Ben and interiors in Westminster’s Houses of Parliament.
Augustus loved Gothic Revival Architecture – a style inspired by grand Mediaeval churches and Cathedrals.
You’ll notice ornate castle-like towers, parapets, arches, gables, pointed windows, soaring stain glass and gold leaf a plenty.
Enter the main Georgian Country house and you step into a world of splendour.
This breath-taking building houses fine art, paintings by old masters, rare books, exquisite craftsmanship, splendid sculpture and iconic treasures.
Our Original Pugin stained glass windows and pews, our golden eagle lectern, wooden carved statues and epic paintings are just some of Ushaw’s jaw-dropping treasures to marvel at.
St Cuthbert’s Chapel is perhaps our most sacred space and celebrates the life of St Cuthbert, an iconic Northern Saint, whose remains lie in Durham Cathedral. It’s a working Chapel and holds Friday Mass.
Wonder and amazement collide when visitors discover the Gothic splendour of the chapel for the first time. Wows and gasps fill still air between its sandstone walls, soaring stained glass windows and Lakeland slate roof.
There are many other smaller chapels at Ushaw, each a pocket of peace, for you to stumble upon at your leisure.
This is a place to lose yourself, get lost in the moment and escape the everyday.
In line with our long continuing tradition of worship. Mass is celebrated every Friday in St. Cuthbert’s Chapel at 12:30pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.