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.
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]
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]
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]
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]
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 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 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.
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
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
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 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]
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. One of the main features of the Festival since the 1967 revival, the Parade attracts thousands into the town centre each year.
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]
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.
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.
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!
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]