Historic England Awards £400,000 to Ushaw for Emergency Repair Works

Historic England has given £400,000 for emergency works to safeguard a fire-damaged former Catholic chapel in County Durham from further deterioration.

In July 2023, Ushaw Historic House, Chapels & Gardens near Durham was the site of an arson attack, which resulted in significant damage to the east wing of the Grade II listed Junior House and to the roof of the adjacent Grade II* St Aloysius Chapel.

Ushaw Historic House, Chapels & Gardens, formally known as St Cuthbert’s College occupies a special place in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in England.

Following Elizabeth I’s Protestant Religious Settlement of 1559, many English Catholics went into exile, settling in the French town of Douai. In 1568, the English College was established in the town to train English priests, which it continued to do until the French Revolution. The college’s dissolution in 1793 and the repeal of anti-Catholic laws in England led to the opening of Ushaw College in 1808. Later, the college was expanded with Gothic revival style buildings designed, among others, by the Pugin family of church architects.

The fire-damaged roof of St Aloysius Chapel.

As the direct successor to the English College at Douai, Ushaw provides a line of continuity to the pre-Elizabethan Church in England. Its role as the principal seminary for the North of England in the 19th and 20th centuries gives it a critical place in the revival of the Roman Catholic Church’s fortunes in England during this period.

After closing in 2011 as a college, Ushaw opened its doors to the public and now operates as an arts and heritage venue, welcoming over 100,000 visits per year to its Georgian country house, neo-Gothic chapels and gardens. Ushaw also provides a year-round calendar of cultural events and exhibitions.

Since the arson attack in 2023, there has been further decay to the Junior House and St Aloysius Chapel, caused in part by recent heavy storms. The £400,000 grant from Historic England will fund emergency repair works to the roof structure and high-level masonry, as well as the erection of a temporary roof to prevent further damage to the special features and fine decoration inside the chapel.  

“This emergency repair work is the first step towards rescuing these historic buildings, which played such an important role in the revival of Roman Catholicism in Northern England. I hope that they will be fully restored soon and become a valuable part of the visitor experience at Ushaw”.

Maria Carballeira
Historic England

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