Complex of Chapels at the College of St Cuthbert, Ushaw


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: I

List Entry Number: 1116449

Date first listed: 17-Jan-1967

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Jan-2014

Statutory Address: Chapels of the College of St Cuthbert, Ushaw College, Esh, Durham, DH7 9BL


Ordnance survey map of Complex of Chapels at the College of St Cuthbert, Ushaw
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Statutory Address: Chapels of the College of St Cuthbert, Ushaw College, Esh, Durham, DH7 9BL

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Esh

National Grid Reference: NZ 21844 43702


Complex incorporating chapels, cloister, sacristy and ancillary spaces. Varying dates between 1852 and 1928 (although incorporating elements of 1844-7 chapel) designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, Edward Welby Pugin, Dunn & Hansom and Sebastian Pugin Powell.

Reasons for Designation

The complex of chapels at St Cuthbert's College, Ushaw is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: This tight complex of chapels represents some of the most accomplished and inventive Gothic Revival design by leading practitioners, A. W. N. Pugin, E. W. Pugin and Joseph Hansom; * Historic interest: the architectural ambition of these buildings reflects the growing confidence and resources of the Roman Catholic Church in England in the middle of the C19; * Group value: these chapels have a strong relationship with the adjacent listed college buildings which they served.


St Cuthbert's College was opened in 1808 to serve as the Catholic diocesan seminary for the Northern District. It continued a lineage of training for the English priesthood established at Douai, France by Cardinal William Allen following Elizabeth I's Protestant Religious Settlement of 1559; its students and professors having been driven out by the French Revolution. The early buildings by James Taylor of Islington were formed around a courtyard with its final, west range completed in 1819. However, the middle years of the century saw Catholic ambition and confidence burgeoning after the Emancipation Act (1829), the arrival of Oxford Movement converts, the Irish immigration and the Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy (1850). Both lay boys and "church students" were taught the faith according to the requirements for diocesan seminaries, laid down at the Council of Trent (1545-63). This was reflected in the college's remarkable expansion led by its 5th President, Monsignor Charles Newsham (1937-63). Newsham brought Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, Joseph and Charles Hansom and Edward Welby Pugin to build or rebuild chapels, the Exhibition Hall, the library, the Junior House, the museum, the infirmary, the laundry, the kitchens, the laboratory, the Bounds walls, the farm, the cemetery cloister and to carry out numerous alterations and additions to the existing buildings.

The Stations cloister was built to link St. Joseph's Chapel with the cloister to the south. It and the Oratory Chapel were built by A. W. N. Pugin in 1852-3. St Charles' chapel was added in 1857-9 by E. W. Pugin. The arcading in the cloister and the stations of the cross were added in 1935 to commemorate the fourth centenary of Cardinal William Allen.

St Michael's Chapel was built by the parents of Very Rev. Michael Gibson (d. 1856), vice-president of the college, as a mortuary chapel to receive the body of their son. Designed by E. W. Pugin in 1856, it was constructed in 1858-9. It subsequently served as the last resting place for Mgr. Charles Newsham, President of the College (d. 1863). Newsham, supported by Gibson, oversaw the remarkable expansion of the college in the mid C19.

In 1882-5 St. Cuthbert's Chapel was rebuilt to designs by Dunn & Hansom in order to provide greater space for the enlarged college. This necessitated the demolition of the chapel by A. W. N. Pugin but made use of a number of elements from the earlier building in the new design. Additional chapels and a porch were added to the West of the antechapel by Sebastian Pugin Powell in 1925-8.

The reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) to the formation of Catholic priests placed an increased emphasis on contact with communities and starting training later. As a result Ushaw experienced a sharp drop in numbers but developed strong links with the University of Durham, providing degree courses accredited by the University. The Junior College closed in 1973 and the college itself closed in 2011 although proposals are being developed for new uses related to Catholic education.


CHAPEL OF ST CUTHBERT. Roman Catholic diocesan seminary chapel. 1882-5 by Dunn & Hansom, incorporating north stair, choir screen, windows and glass of 1844-7 chapel by A. W. N. Pugin on the same site. 1925-8 addition of 2 west chapels by S. P. Powell.

Materials: coursed squared sandstone with ashlar plinth and dressings; roof of graduated Lakeland slate with stone gable copings.

Plan: long CHOIR separated by a SCREEN from WEST ANTECHAPEL and TRANSEPTS, and small WEST CHAPELS flanking porch; screen containing CHAPELS OF ST. BEDE AND ST. GREGORY THE GREAT; LADY CHAPEL on east of SOUTH TRANSEPT; NORTH CLOISTER with ORGAN CHAMBER and BELL TURRET; SANCTUARY with north SACRISTY. Decorated style.

Exterior: west front has double boarded doors in triple-shafted surround in gabled porch with diagonal buttresses under kneelers with gablets; similar treatment to large west gable over 7-light window flanked by buttresses and niches; crocketed niche in gable peak. Stepped parapet on stepped string over porch and chapels, which have 4-light windows. North and south transept gables and north organ-chamber gable in similar style but slightly lower. 6-light choir windows in bays defined by large buttresses with offsets, double plinths and gablets. High apse of 7 bays defined by pinnacled buttresses; transomed 3-light windows with trefoils above in gable peaks with stone finials, the easternmost an angel; higher pinnacled buttress between choir. Latin verses (dedication of Solomon's Temple) in band below apse sills. Head-stopped dripmoulds; carved corbel table; roll-moulded copings. Steeply-pitched roofs. Stone carving by A. B. Wall of Cheltenham. On the north, stone spire on octagonal stair-turret, and cloister with 2-light windows with wrought iron grilles (these are by A. W. N. Pugin).

Interior: painted plaster with ashlar dressings, some painted; arch-braced panelled roof with stencil decoration (now only in the apse and antechapel). Slender pilasters between wall arches with angel- stopped dripmoulds. High-quality ornament throughout includes 1894 painted decoration by Bentley of screen and CHAPELS OF STS. BEDE AND GREGORY in choir screen, and of the LADY CHAPEL which he also altered (completed 1899) to include free-standing wall arcade, and enriched cornice.

1890 high altar of Caen stone; crocketed reredos of painted wood, with painted panels and much rich carving by P. P. Pugin, 1891. A. W. N. Pugin's original high altar and credence niche now in SOUTH TRANSEPT (Sacred Heart Chapel). Altar in the LADY CHAPEL by A. W. N. Pugin. Marble altar of St Bede by Bentley, with paintings of the life of St Bede in the reredos, and on the pine and mahogany frontal. Altar of St Gregory by P. P. Pugin, with paintings by Elphege Pippet. In the screen niches are a wooden statue of the Sacred Heart, and a marble statue of Our Lady by Karl Hoffmann.

High CHOIR STALLS have coved crested frieze; some mid-C19 poppyheads and misericords. Other works include white alabaster statue of Our Lady of Help, 1855 by Karl Hoffmann, commissioned by Monsignor Newsham (south side of sanctuary); south transept screen by Basil Champneys commemorating Henry, son of Coventry Patmore, died 1883. On the north wall of the ANTECHAPEL is a triptych with statue of St Cuthbert, by A. W. N. Pugin, 1848. Sanctuary lamp, lectern (1847), and large Paschal candlestick (the latter two items shown at 1851 exhibition) by A. W. N. Pugin. The glass from the old chapel by A. W. N. Pugin and Hardman was reused, the former west window (1846-7) as the east, and the former east (also 1846-7) as the west. The other windows (now in the antechapel) were enlarged as necessary by Edward Frampton, who was also responsible for the second window from the east on the north side of the SANCTUARY. The NAVE windows were originally filled with patterned glass by Atkinson of Newcastle, some of which survives on the north, though the first window on that side, of 1910, is by Kempe & Co. (probably designed Geoffrey Webb). The first window on the south is by Frampton; the rest Hardman. Above the stalls at the western end on the north side is a painting of St Cuthbert in a richly carved and gilded frame. The WESTERN CHAPELS (S. P. Powell) are fan-vaulted, and are elaborately decorated, with paintings by Elphege Pippet.

NORTH CLOISTER entered from east by original A. W. N. Pugin doorway with paired doors under 6-foil light in 2-centred-arched surround, with statue of Virgin and Child; glass in west window A. W. N. Pugin and Hardman. Arch-supported stone stair at west end of cloister to tribune of choir screen also by A. W. N. Pugin; floor tiles and similarly-patterned cast iron heating vents of same period. Triptych of the Northern English Martyrs 1937 by Geoffrey Webb.

CHAPEL OF ST MICHAEL (MORTUARY CHAPEL). 1858-9 by Edward Welby Pugin for M. Gibson of Leamington to receive body of his son.

Materials: coursed squared sandstone with ashlar dressings; roof not visible.

Plan: short flight of stone steps down from north side of NORTH CLOISTER to CHAPEL OF ST. CUTHBERT leads to 4-bay chapel sunk below ground level.

Exterior: north front has Decorated tracery in 2-light windows under dripmoulds; bays defined by flying buttresses, diagonal at corner with east front; east front blank with stone shield in arched recess. String at buttress-top level; steeply-coped parapet.

Interior: ashlar with green marble shafts; ashlar vault; ceramic-tiled floor. Richly-carved capitals of wall shafts, linked by marble string at plinth level, support many-ribbed vault with much moulding and elaborate bosses; similar shafts support altar. High relief carving of Souls in Purgatory on altar, and Last Judgement on reredos, of very high quality; theme carried on through all other carved detail on vaults and walls, including stone benches at west end flanking door with similarly-carved tympanum. Delicately-coloured floor tiles; 2 grave slabs with simple brass initials and dates M.G. 1856 (Very Rev. Michael Gibson) and C.N. 1863 (Right Rev. Mgr. Newsham) in centre of floor. Memorial brasses at west end over benches have inscriptions to these men.

STATIONS OF THE CROSS CLOISTER WITH CHAPEL OF ST. CHARLES BORROMEO ON WEST, AND HOLY FAMILY ORATORY CHAPEL ON EAST. All 1852-3 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin except for 1857-9 chapel of St. Charles by Edward Welby Pugin.

Materials: thin courses of squared sandstone with ashlar plinth and dressings; roofs of graduated Lakeland slate; crested ridge tiles and lead flashings on cloister and Oratory.

Plan: CLOISTER is corridor connecting CHAPEL OF ST. CUTHBERT (q.v.) at south with CHAPEL OF ST. JOSEPH (q.v.) at north. One-storey, 4-bay cloister, with slightly higher CHAPEL OF ST. CHARLES on west, and high oratory opposite on east. Gothic style.

Exterior: CLOISTER has blocked cusped door in north bay on west front; paired cusped lights with wrought-iron grilles, all under dripmoulds; steeply-pitched roof with small gabled roof-lights.

CHAPEL OF ST. CHARLES has Decorated tracery in 4 joined 2-light windows with low 2-centred-heads under dripstring; diagonal buttresses; steeply-pitched hipped roof with north gabled roof-light.

ORATORY octagonal with short corners; blank except for 2-light 2-centred-arched north and south windows under dripmoulds; Decorated tracery. High roof has 4 small gabled roof-lights, and lead spike finial; bands of fishscale and diamond pattern slates.

Interior: cloister has blind ashlar arcading added in 1935, containing limewood Stations of the Cross by Dorigo (of the Art and Book Company); keeled panelled roof.

CHAPEL OF ST. CHARLES: ashlar, with ornate Caen stone screen to cloister, and groined ribbed vault on naturalistic foliage capitals of shafts; original tiled floor in delicate colours and patterns. Stone carving by Lane and Lewis of Birmingham. Richly-carved altar has green marble shafts, and panels with HUMILITAS in each; canopied reredos with high-relief figure of St. Charles and scenes from his life; similar scenes in glass on west by Edward Frampton; south subjects Sts. Walburga, Richard, Winebald and Willibald by Hardman.

ORATORY CHAPEL has elaborately-painted high-domed panelled roof with pendant, by A. W. N. Pugin; Minton tiled floor and altar also by him; Gothic cases formerly held relics of saints, an 1860 gift. Large painting on reredos Adoration of Magi by Franz von Rohden.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 350530

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Laing, R C (ed) , Ushaw College: a Centenary Memorial, (1895)
Milburn, D, A History of Ushaw College, (1964)
St Cuthbert's Society, , Ushaw College 1808-2008: A Celebration, (2008)
O'Donnell, R, 'True Principles: Journal of the Pugin Society' in E W Pugin at Ushaw: The H T Brewer Bird's-Eye of 1856, (vol.iii, no. v, 2008)
Towers, E, 'Ushaw Magazine' in Architects At Ushaw And Their Work, (1952)

End of official listing