The Catholic Archdicese of Birmingham Archives

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OCA - Oscott College Archives

Dates: 1613-2007

Number of records in this collection: 5697


A college for training priests and educating Catholic boys opened at Old Oscott, now known as Maryvale, in May 1794 under the general management of a group of Catholic gentry and nobility. Financial difficulties led to the handing-over of the college to Bishop John Milner, Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District, in June 1808. The 'New Government' was inaugurated on the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, 15 August, when the college became St Mary's College, Oscott. Despite extensions and additions to the fabric of the college, it was inadequate for the increasing number of students. In March 1835 Hawthorn Brook Farm was purchased and work began on a new college, which opened in 1838. St Mary's College continued to educate boys and clerical students, although the majority of divines were removed in September 1873 by Bishop Ullathorne to the purpose-built seminary at Olton in Warwickshire, dedicated to St Bernard. His successor, Bishop Edward Ilsley, closed St Bernard's Seminary in 1889 and transferred the students back to Oscott, which ceased to be a lay school. It has continued as the seminary of the Diocese and Archdiocese of Birmingham ever since, although clerical students from other dioceses have always been educated there, and for a period between 1897 and 1909 it was the Central Seminary for the dioceses of Westminster, Birmingham, Clifton, Newport, Portsmouth, Northampton, and all of Wales. For information on the history of Oscott see:- Notes on Oscott history by W.M. Stone, OCA/2/10/S/5/5-7 'The History of Oscott' by W.J.A. [William J. Amherst, S.J.], in the 'Oscotian', New Series, 1882-1887 'A History of Oscott College', by John H. Thomson, in the 'Oscotian', 1931-1938. Judith F. Champ, 'Oscott', Archdiocese of Birmingham Historical Commission, 1987 Judith F. Champ, ed: 'Oscott College 1838-1988: a volume of commemorative essays', 1988 Michael E. Williams: 'Oscott College in the Twentieth Century', Gracewing, 2001 The 'Oscotian', which first appeared in 1826 as a 'Literary Gazette', and has had a fairly continuous run since 1881 often contains reports on current activities. The archives are the administrative papers of the College, generated by its work as a teaching institution and its possession of land and property, plus a large collection of photographs and some donations [see administrative history below]. The archives as a whole are a source of information on the development of and changes in priests' training and boys' education; the plans and accounts for the new building and its later additions and changes are sources for architectural and artistic history; the papers of Henry Thomas Parkinson and J.H. Turner illustrate contemporary education and social issues; the procurator's correspondence and the property records could be useful for local history; the long series of financial records illustrate the workings of a large institution; the photographs could be valuable for family and parish histories. Additionally, the archives of related institutions and societies are resources for their histories. The archives provide a valuable insight into the working of the College and its estates but are less useful in regard to the life of the seminary and of individuals. The best documented periods are the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the early nineteenth century and mid-twentieth century onwards are less well represented. There are large gaps. There is very little material from Old Oscott, although some material from this period had previously been transferred to the Birmingham Archdiocesan Archives to form part of the 'C' Series; the collections of presidents' and rectors' papers vary from a few items to several metres of shelving; the survival of teaching material, for example notes and examination scripts, is patchy and the series of papers from staff and students represents a small proportion only of the possible total. There are also some significant omissions. There are no formal title deeds or appointments of Trustees although there are some drafts, especially in the Gateley and Wareing papers, and there are very few Trustees' minutes or reports. Current and semi-current papers, including cemetery records, remain at Oscott. Enquiries about the library and museum should also be made to the College.

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