05 September 2019, The Tablet

Religious buildings and the heritage business

Religious buildings and the heritage business

The Bar Convent in York
Elena Curti


Catholic institutions are facing a challenge in preserving their historic buildings, maintaining their values and paying their way. Three iconic sites in the north of England, Ushaw, Ampleforth and the Bar Convent, York, have pinned their hopes for survival on attracting visitors and pilgrims

Ushaw’s junior seminary is derelict. There are gaping holes in the roof, grass in the gutters and smashed windows. One part of the complex, designed by Edward Welby Pugin, eldest son of A.W.N. Pugin, has been damaged by arsonists.

Saving these buildings is probably the biggest challenge facing Ushaw since it closed its great seminary for the North in 2011. The aim, at first, was to create a Catholic cultural centre supported by the University of Durham. But administrators quickly found that Ushaw needs a broader appeal if it is to survive.

The estate is huge: 200,000 square feet of buildings – almost all of them listed – in 550 acres on moorland three-and-a-half miles from Durham. There are 14 chapels, a magnificent library and priceless collections of art, vestments and scientific instruments.

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