A CENTURIES old former Catholic seminary largely hidden from the public for decades is set to become the region’s newest visitor attraction.
Ushaw College was founded near Ushaw Moor, County Durham, as a college for training would-be priests by Catholics fleeing revolutionary France in 1808.
It boasts stunning architecture including the 1870s-built St Cuthbert’s Chapel and a 500-acre estate, including walled gardens.
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The 75,000-book library includes works from the Middle Ages, the archive of the English College at Lisbon from 1628 to 1971 and an extensive collection of works on and by Cardinal John Newman, a 19th century priest who beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
At its peak in the 1950s, there were 300 adult students and 150 children and its alumni include cardinals and bishops.
However, it closed in summer 2011 amid falling rolls and rising maintenance costs.
Talks are ongoing which could see part of the campus become a new Durham University college.
But although some small group tours have been undertaken in recent years, its treasures have mostly been kept away from public view.
Now Ushaw bosses want to open up much of the campus to visitors for concerts, exhibitions, open days, lectures and other events.
A year-long programme will be launched during the Heritage Open Days weekend, of September 13 to 14.
But the plans are dependent on finding enough volunteers.
Help is needed greeting visitors, leading tours, serving refreshments, stewarding venues, restoring the gardens and more.
Monsignor John Marsland, president of Ushaw College, said: “This is an extraordinary opportunity for people of all ages to come along and make a real difference, by helping to open up to the public one of the most important and largely unknown architectural and cultural gems in the region.
“We hope it will be a rewarding and life-enhancing experience for all.
“Please come along whatever your skills and join this wonderful project.”
Anyone interested is invited to join a college tour on Saturday, September 13, at 11am or attend an opening evening on Wednesday, September 17, from 4pm to 7pm. To register, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07421-035-240.