PLANS have been unveiled for a new international residential research library at a historic former Catholic seminary.

The facility will be the only one of its kind in the UK and will be developed at Ushaw College, in a £2million project led by Durham University.

It is intended that leading researchers from around the world will visit Ushaw to study and work with its outstanding collections, along with those of Durham Cathedral and the University’s Palace Green Library.

Visiting researchers will be able to reside at the 200-year-old establishment and, as well as using the library resources, contribute to a growing public engagement programme, including public lectures, cultural events and learning opportunities.

Work on the refurbishment of the library, in order to equip it to welcome international visitors, will begin during the academic year 2017-18.

The partnership will make Durham the first UK university to offer such a residential research library and will raise the profile of the collections at Ushaw, the University’s Palace Green Library and Durham Cathedral.

Professor David Cowling, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Arts and Humanities) at Durham University, said: “This new international residential research library will see Durham University lend its world-class research expertise to the stunning collections at Ushaw, and further strengthens a partnership that has developed over a number of years.

“We are excited by what visiting researchers will discover in the Ushaw library and our support further demonstrates our commitment to North East England, in this case in conserving and enhancing our shared heritage.”

Peter Seed, operations director at Ushaw, said: “We are excited at the prospect of welcoming researchers from across the world to Ushaw to explore the fantastic collections we have here.

“We have a successful and growing arts and education programme, and this project is further evidence of the positive future Ushaw has as a cultural destination.”

Ushaw was founded as The English College, a Roman Catholic seminary in Douai, now north east France, in 1568.

Its communities were expelled from France in the 18th century, and Ushaw College, four miles west of Durham City, was purpose-built between 1804 and 1808.

Its library includes around 30,000 early printed books and a major collection of archives and manuscripts, some of which formed part of the medieval monastic library of Durham Priory.

There is a strong emphasis on theology and church history, as well as large numbers of books on more secular subjects, including art, architecture, philosophy, archaeology and early travel. Many works are extremely rare and internationally significant.

Durham University and Ushaw’s partnership dates back to the 1960s, when Ushaw students began studying at the university, and university staff and students continue to work and study on site.

Under a separate agreement, as part of the delivery of its new Strategy, the University will continue to lease Ushaw’s East Wing until 2027.