A FASCINATING insight into life at a former Catholic seminary is about to be unveiled to the public.

With the support of a £10,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, volunteers have spent 18 months producing an oral history of Ushaw, on the outskirts of Durham.

Ushaw operated as a boarding school, and prepared young men for the priesthood, for almost 200 years, and the oral history project will provide a unique record of what life was like from the late 1930s until the estate closed in 2011.

The recordings, along with information panels, will now be presented in an exhibition called “Life At Ushaw” which opens to the public on Friday, March 29.

Those interviewed range from housemaids to professors, and the exhibition will give visitors an understanding of the lessons taught at Ushaw, the sports that were played, and the army of domestic workers needed to keep the vast estate running.

The estate even included a farm that supplied all the produce to feed the Ushaw community, which had 500 staff and pupils at its height in the 1950s.

Ushaw provided education to a university standard, with an emphasis on Greek, Latin, arithmetic and ancient history. Music, art, dancing and fencing were offered as optional subjects to provide an all-round learning environment.

Ushaw also had its own natural history museum, located in what is now the William Allen Gallery. The estate also comprised a bakery, windmill, gasworks, tailors and cobbler’s workshop.

Traditional Ushaw games were played on the Bounds to the east of the college and included a sport called Cat, which was unique to Britain. Reminiscent of rounders and baseball, it originated at Ushaw’s foundation institution, Douai College, in France.

Lucy Jenkins, Culture and Heritage Manager at Ushaw, said: “This exhibition will provide a fascinating insight into what life was like for a wide range of people, and we would like to sincerely thank the volunteers and the interviewees for their invaluable contributions.”

• Those who have participated in the project will be treated to afternoon tea at Ushaw between 3pm and 5pm on March 28 and are available for interview.

• To find out more about events and exhibitions at Ushaw, go to www.ushaw.org