THE peace and tranquillity of a religious seminary will be shattered this weekend by the throbbing of 60 motor bike engines.
A team of hairy – and some not so hairy – bikers are to descend on the hallowed grounds of Ushaw College, a Roman Catholic college for priests outside Bearpark, near Durham City.
A big drop in the number of men training as priests saw the college open its doors to visitors this year, but it was unlikely that administrators expected a bikers convention to be held there.
Dave Young, 50, treasurer of the England 3 chapter of the Blue Knights bikers, stressed that the college, which was founded in France in the 16th Century, had nothing to fear from them.
“We are law-abiding bikers, as far removed from Hells Angels as is possible. A qualification for membership of the Blue Knights is that you have to be a past or present member of a law enforcement agency.
“Police officers, prison wardens, customs and excise, military police officers past and present all qualify,” said Dave, himself a former Durham police officer.
“The Blue Knights was founded in America by law enforcement officers who enjoy biking.”
Mr Young said the Bank Holiday weekend rally attended by up to 60 members would have a religious theme.
“We are not all churchgoers by any means, but we are calling this the Benedictus Rally. On Saturday we will be touring the North East visiting various abbeys and churches.”
To commemorate the rally Durham Brewery, based in Bowburn, Durham, has made a special edition of their Benedictus Beer for the bikers to sample in Ushaw College.
Kay Wightman, director of finance and commercial development at Ushaw, said the building with its extensive grounds had catered for more than 300 trainee priests at any one time.
But that number had now fallen to 23, prompting plans to develop the building as a visitor attraction, while remaining as a working seminary.
Visitors can stay in the college’s 130 rooms and use Ushaw as a base to explore the region.
“The college has always been very strong on hospitality and this is another form of hospitality,” said Ms Wightman.
“It is a hidden gem, which until about 20 years ago was closed to the public.”