A historic chapel in County Durham has been awarded nearly half a million pounds after an arson attack saw it damaged. 

Historic England has given £400,000 for emergency works to safeguard a fire-damaged former at Ushaw Historic House 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.

The historic house, formally known as St Cuthbert’s College occupies a special place in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in England.

The Northern Echo: Fire damaged St Aloysius Chapel, Ushaw College, County Durham.

It provides a line of continuity to the pre-Elizabethan Church in England, and was the principal seminary for the North of England in the 19th and 20th centuries, giving it a critical place in the revival of the 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.

A registered independent charity, Ushaw is reliant on donations to help it run as an arts, heritage and cultural attraction for visitors and local communities in North East England

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. 

Maria Carballeira from Historic England said: “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.”   

The Northern Echo: Fire damaged St Aloysius Chapel, Ushaw College, County Durham.

Lucy Jenkins, Co-CEO & Director of Culture and Heritage at Ushaw, said: “We are hugely grateful to Historic England for helping us to progress with the emergency repair work to St Aloysius Chapel. The fire was a devastating blow to Ushaw and we are thrilled that we can now begin the process of conservation, that will enable our visitors to see it restored in the future.”

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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.