It Marked the End of the Priest-factory Days
Old Oscott, the original foundation, dates from 1794, and its buildings still stand at Maryvale, now an orphanage in charge of the Sisters of Mercy.
Although the Old College was much enlarged by Bishop Milner, its second founder, it soon ceased to furnish adequate accommodation for the many sons of distinguished families who came to it for what was then the most up-to-date Catholic training in England. In 1835, therefore, a new college was begun on a site some two miles distant, at a spot then deserted, lonely and bleak, but now overrun by the ever-spreading suburbs of Greater Birmingham.
The new college was designed broadly on Wadham College, Oxford, and its building marked the end of the priest-factory days.
A Catholic Centre Under the direction of Bishop Walsh and Dr. Weedall, and with the enthusiastic cooperation of Pugin, who had been responsible for the finishing architectural touches to the chapel, Oscott became a centre of culture, ecclesiastical art and learning. Intended primarily as a public school for the Catholic laity, it housed also students of divinity, and so from the very beginning it influenced both clerical and lay life.
In 1840 Wiseman became President and his international fame as a scholar brought fresh prestige to the College.
During his Presidency Oscott became the
Catholic counterpart of Oxford during the
years of religious activity which followed the tractarian movement. All the most distinguished converts—Newman, Faber, Dalgairns, Oakeley, Spencer, etc.—found a second home at this centre of English Catholic life. Many distinguished foreigners, also, were welcomed within its walls, such as Lacordaire, Jandel, Montalembert and Henri of Bordeaux de jure King of France.
The first Synod of Westminster was held at Oscott, on which occasion Newman preached his " Second Spring" celebrating the restoration of the hierarchy.
The school was still flourishing in 1888, when, with Mgr. Souter as President, it celebrated its Golden Jubilee. In the following year Bishop Ilsley decided to close it to lay boys, and so for the past 49 years it has been solely an ecclesiastical seminary. From 1897 until 1909 it was a Central Seminary for many of the dioceses in the Midlands and South, and though for nearly thirty years it has been purely a Birmingham diocesan institution, it still attracts many students from elsewhere.
The influence of Oscott, then, during the 100 years which have elapsed since its second foundation, has been very widespread. Oscotians have distinguished themselves in many walks of life--the Church, Parliament, the Bar and the Services, and although the generation of lay Oscotians is now very much depleted, Oscotian priests are to be found all o'er Great Britain.