Tuesday 28 September 2010

The Junior Seminary

This is a photo of the Junior Seminary at Ushaw, taken from the main road across what used to be two football pitches - the grass is now cropped by a couple of horses wandering around.  As I have said before, this is about as close as anyone can get to the Junior Sem, and its dereliction is now well-known.  I have received the following comment on the state of this Pugin-designed building, and I wish to share it with you. Since I have in the past been reported and 'corrected' by a former bishop for daring to criticise the Youth Village, you will soon understand why he does not wish his name to be published.
Dear Father Elkin,  I have been following your descriptions of life in the 40s and 50s at Ushaw College with great interest.  The figures speak for themselves.  About 400 students/seminarians pre Vat II, and now about twenty five after 40 years of Vat II experimentation.  These figures speak for themselves and need no elaboration. Sadly, this collapse of numbers has also seen the decline in the property as neither the funds, nor the numbers of men, are sufficient to sustain all the buildings on the huge site.  You said that you could not take photos of the junior seminary because the place is in grave danger of falling down because various authorities - the Bishops, English Heritage, County Durham Planning Department - cannot agree on what to do with the place. The result - dereliction!  One of your commenters asked if anyone knew how to go about purchasing or leasing the old junior seminary with a view to restoring it? There was a golden opportunity some years ago but it probably never entered the heads of the enthusiasts. I speak about the Youth Village in this diocese and the inordinate amount of money spent (wasted) on this fanciful project.  If the powers that be wished to have some facility to bring the youth together why on earth didn’t they choose the most obvious place – the abandoned junior seminary.  I have no idea how much money has been wasted on this Youth Village (which, far from being a centre of excellence for teaching youngsters the faith, seems to be nothing more than a glorified campsite for jamborees and endless ‘fun’).  The millions (and I understand it is millions) that have been channelled into this albatross, white elephant, or whatever, could have been directed into restoring the junior seminary where everything was already on site – dormitories, classrooms, chapel, and acres of land – that far excelled the wooden shacks of the Youth Village.  The junior sem could have been restored to its former glory and the ‘Youth’ could have spent some of their time and energy tidying up the grounds.   The entire campus of Ushaw College could have taken on a new lease of life with ALL the buildings and surrounds being used once again in their fullness.  Unfortunately, in the Church in this country there is no joined up thinking and it is the short-term, trendy, fanciful ideas devoid of substance that hold sway; this is why we are in serious decline with obviously no leadership and no ideas about how to get out of it.
Name supplied.

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