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Library with stair

A Grade II* Listed Building in Esh, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.7879 / 54°47'16"N

Longitude: -1.6601 / 1°39'36"W

OS Eastings: 421953

OS Northings: 543725

OS Grid: NZ219437

Mapcode National: GBR JFV2.CF

Mapcode Global: WHC4H.GXPC

Plus Code: 9C6WQ8QQ+5W

Entry Name: Library with stair

Listing Date: 24 June 1987

Last Amended: 9 January 2014

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1185961

English Heritage Legacy ID: 350532

Location: Esh, County Durham, DH7

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Esh

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Esh and Hamsteels

Church of England Diocese: Durham

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Library with stair. 1849-51 by J. & C. Hansom.


Materials: coursed squared sandstone with ashlar plinth and dressings; roofs of graduated Lakeland slate with stone gable copings. Decorated style.

Plan: 2-storey, 10-bay library with stair to the North.

Exterior: the main body of the library block has square-headed 3-light ground-floor windows and paired first-floor windows with low-2-centred heads, all with transoms and tracery; bays defined by tall buttresses with one offset and gablet coping. Left and right gabled returns have 3 buttresses, the central lower, and 2-light ground-floor windows; 5-light west window over buttress with niche and statue; 4-light east window; trefoils in gable peaks; stone cross finials. Rear stair wing has 2-centred-arched windows under dripmoulds.

Interior: the dogleg stair to the library has a stone balustrade, with pierced quatrefoils. High-quality glass in the gable and stair windows. The library is fitted with Gothic bookcases and a panelled ceiling on arch-braced bracketed trusses over carved wood frieze. At the south east corner a timber traceried screen defines one bay of shelves for the librarian's use. On the ground floor of the library building the Lisbon Room retains Portuguese door furniture incorporating the Papal insignia and a Portuguese silver sanctuary lamp.


St Cuthbert's College was opened in 1808 to serve as the Catholic diocesan seminary for the Northern District. It continued a lineage of training for the English priesthood established at Douai, France by Cardinal William Allen following Elizabeth I's Protestant Religious Settlement of 1559; its students and professors having been driven out by the French Revolution. The early buildings by James Taylor of Islington were formed around a courtyard with its final, west range completed in 1819. However, the middle years of the century saw Catholic ambition and confidence burgeoning after the Emancipation Act (1829), the arrival of Oxford Movement converts, the Irish immigration and the Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy (1850). Both lay boys and "church students" were taught the faith according to the requirements for diocesan seminaries, laid down at the Council of Trent (1545-63). This was reflected in the college's remarkable expansion led by its 5th President, Monsignor Charles Newsham (1937-63). Newsham brought Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, Joseph and Charles Hansom and Edward Welby Pugin to build or rebuild chapels, the Exhibition Hall, the library, the Junior House, the museum, the infirmary, the laundry, the kitchens, the laboratory, the Bounds walls, the farm, the cemetery cloister and to carry out numerous alterations and additions to the existing buildings.

The library was designed by J. & C. Hansom in 1849-51 after A. W. N. Pugin's design was rejected. It was designed to complement the then A. W. N. Pugin chapel at the opposite end of the main college block; now replaced by the Church of St. Cuthbert (q.v.).

The reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) to the formation of Catholic priests placed an increased emphasis on contact with communities and starting training later. As a result Ushaw experienced a sharp drop in numbers but developed strong links with the University of Durham, providing degree courses accredited by the University. The Junior College closed in 1973 and the college itself closed in 2011 although proposals are being developed for new uses related to Catholic education.

Reasons for Listing

The library at St. Cuthbert's College, Ushaw is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the library was designed by Dunn and Hansom, leading practitioners of the Gothic Revival, as one of the most prominent buildings at the college, balancing the chapel by A. W. N. Pugin;
* Intactness: the main library space survives with its full suite of original bookcase intact;
* Historic interest: the role of St Cuthbert's College in training generations of priests, required the college to be able to provide a suitable seat of learning of which the library was an essential part;
* Group value: the library has a strong visual and functional relationship with the neighbouring listed college buildings.

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