Houghton Feast: History of Houghton-le-Spring's Ancient Festival by Houghton Heritage Society www.houghtonlespring.org.uk

HISTORY OF HOUGHTON FEAST

The Feast has its origins in the 12th century as Michaelmas, the festival of the dedication of the parish church of St Michael & All Angels.

A common misbelief is that Rector Bernard Gilpin (1557 to 1583) founded the event, or that it originated as a celebration of his safe return to Houghton after his arrest for heresy when the country was under the rule of Mary I; when in fact the Feast predates Gilpin’s arrival at Houghton.

The festival, which is still centred on the historic parish church, has taken many forms over the years.

These articles look at how Houghton Feast has evolved over the years from a simple church service into the community festival we known and love today.

Overview of the history of Houghton Feast, the ancient festival of Houghton-le-Spring

HOUGHTON FEAST

Houghton Feast has its origins in the 12th century as Michaelmas, the festival of the dedication of the parish church of St Michael & All Angels. This article gives an overview of its history and looks at recent anniversaries.
[HOUGHTON FEAST OVERVIEW]

Time line of significant events for Houghton Feast, 1100s - 2014

FESTIVAL TIME LINE

This Time Line of events shows significants happenings in the history of Houghton Feast from its origins in the 1100s through to the 2014 event. See also how the Feast has had various guises over the years.
[FEAST TIME LINE]

Event website for the 2015 Houghton Feast, festival held in October 2015

HOUGHTON FEAST 2015

Houghton Feast is a 10 day festival featuring a fairground, ox roasting, church events, carnival parade, community events, exhibitions, talks and tours, and fireworks! Fri Oct 2nd - Sun Oct 11th 2015.
[HOUGHTON FEAST 2015]

A Beef History of The Houghton Feast Ox Roasting: Organised by Houghton Rotary Club in commemoration of Bernard Gilpin

OX ROASTING

The ox roasting tradition at Houghton Feast started in the 16th century with Bernard Gilpin. It was revived in 1967 by the Rotary Club of Houghton-le-Spring who roast an ox each year on Houghton Feast Monday.
[A BEEF HISTORY] | [OX CARVERS]

The 40th anniversary of the 1967 Revival of Houghton Feast in 2007

40 YEARS OF HOUGHTON FEAST

In 1967 the great revival of Houghton Feast took place when the Rector, Oswald Noel Gwilliam, teamed up with the Rotary Club, Round Table, local Chamber of Trade, HUDC, churches and local community groups.
[FEAST REVIVAL 1967]

Houghton Feast fairgrounds: The Lake, the Market Place and Rectory Field

HOUGHTON FEAST FAIRGROUNDS

The Houghton Feast fairgrounds have been a mainstay of the Festival for over 100 years. The fun fair was originally held in the Market Place, the Lake ground and now on the Rectory Field, Dairy Lane.
[ALL THE FUN OF THE FAIR] | [FAIRGROUND GLOSSARY]

Bernard Gilpin expanded the Houghton Feast celebrations with an ox roasting for the parish's poor

BERNARD GILPIN

Bernard Gilpin was Rector of Houghton-le-Spring from 1558 until his death in March 1583 at the age of 66 years. Find our more about this amazing man in his own section of the Heritage Society's site on the link below.
[BERNARD GILPIN]

John Mawston is known as Mr Houghton Feast for his long association with the festival

MR JOHN MAWSTON

Mr John Mawston also goes by the name of Mr Houghton Feast for his longstanding association with the festival. John was a Councillor for Houghton Urban District Council and then the City of Sunderland.
[MR JOHN MAWSTON]

The Houghton Feast Crest is a wild boar - not an ox as some people mistakingly think

THE HOUGHTON FEAST CREST

The Houghton Feast Crest was adopted by Houghton Feast in honour of Rector Bernard Gilpin who would roast an ox or hog from Michaelmas to Easter to feed the parish's poor. It features a sabre boar (not an ox).
[HOUGHTON FEAST CREST]

Community Hymn Singing outdoors at Houghton Feast attracted over 8,000 singers!

COMMUNITY HYMN SINGING

The outdoor Community Hymn Singing started in 1949 when Rector Gwilliam led the choir venture outside to sing after evensong on Feast Sunday. The buses had difficulty in getting through the crowds!
[COMMUNITY HYMN SINGING]

Houghton Feast 2010 fell on the 10th of the 10th of the 10th 10/10/10

HOUGHTON FEAST 10-10-10

The 2010 Festival had a mystical alignment of dates: Sunday, October 10th 2010 – 10/10/10! The Church's Civic Service started at 10am – 10/10/10/10. The last time such an alignment occurred was in October 1210!
[HOUGHTON FEAST 10-10-10]

Billy Purvis the travelling clown attended Houghton Feast 1818 to 1848, and has made a welcome return every year since 2009

THE WITTY BILLY PURVIS

The great showman Billy Purvis visited the Feast with his booth between 1818 and 1848. He made a welcome 'reappearance' in 2009 and has been back every year since. Read his fascinating story here.
[BILLY PURVIS THE CLOWN]

The Round Table's 45th annual Carnival Parade was held at Houghton Feast 2011

CARNIVAL PARADE

The Round Table's 45th annual Carnival Parade was held at Houghton Feast 2011. One of the main features of the Festival since the 1967 revival, the Parade attracts thousands into the town centre each year.
[CARNIVAL PARADE]

A look at the Houghton Coronation Feast in 1953, Houghton Silver Jubilee Feast in 1977, Houghton Golden Jubilee Feast in 2002 and Houghton Diamond Jubilee Feast in 2012

JUBILEE FEASTS

A look at the Houghton Coronation Feast in 1953, Houghton Silver Jubilee Feast in 1977, Houghton Golden Jubilee Feast in 2002 and Houghton Diamond Jubilee Feast in 2012 commemorating the reign of ER II.
[HOUGHTON JUBILEE FEASTS]

A look at the varied front covers of the Houghton Feast brochures from 1967 to modern times

FEAST BROCHURES 1967 - 2014

A look at the varied front covers of the Houghton Feast brochures from 1967 to modern times, showing how they have changed - plus details of when the Feast was held that year and which Mayor carved the roast ox.
[FEAST BROCHURES]

Join Fyass Byuk - Houghton Heritage Society's popular Facebook group

FACEBOOK GROUP

You can join Houghton Heritage Society by becoming a member on Facebook - or Fyass Byuk as we call it. We have over 3,300 members and the group is very popular with residents, descendants and ex-pats.
[FACEBOOK]

Videos and cine footage of Houghton Feast, Houghton-le-Spring

VIDEOS OF HOUGHTON FEAST

Houghton Heritage Society's YouTube Channel features exclusive videos of Houghton-le-Spring as well as footage from our heritage events throughout the year - and of course the ancient festival of Houghton Feast!
[YOUTUBE VIDEOS]

Old photographs of Houghton Feast, Houghton-le-Spring shared via Flickr

OLD PHOTOGRAPHSOF THE FEAST

Houghton Heritage Society has over 5,000 images in its collections. Many can be found on our Flickr page while our Facebook group has thousands of exclusive photographs as uploaded by our many members.
[FLICKR] | [ARCHIVE CATALOGUE]