HOUGHTON RECTORY PARK

April 2014 marked the 65th anniversary of the unveiling of St Michael's Rectory grounds in Houghton-le-Spring as a public park. Over 500 people attended that day on April 9th 1949, including civic dignitaries, members of the clergy and Houghton residents.

Here local historian and Houghton Heritage Society Chairman Paul Lanagan takes a walk around the Rectory and its grounds, taking in many of the much loved aspects, including the ancient Rectory building, the recently demolished Houghton Area Office and the long-since gone St Michael’s Church of England School, now a rose garden at the southern end of the park.

Download your copy of the free printable Rectory Park guide book below.

Free printable guide book for Houghton-le-Spring's Rectory Park plus a map

RECTORY PARK GUIDE BOOK

Houghton-le-Spring Rectory: A Walk Around the Grounds is an illustrated guide book to the former Rectory building and its grounds, now known as Rectory Park. Print a copy and take it with you when you visit.
[PARK GUIDE BOOK]

Time line for Houghton Rectory Park and its origins as the private grounds of the Rectory

PARK TIME LINE

Houghton's Rectory was apparently built around a fortified tower, known as a pele. This time line starts with the earliest reference for the building is 1311 and looks at the Rectory's history right up to modern times.
[PARK TIME LINE]

The Rectory's archway was relocated and is now the entrance to the Church

THE ARCHWAY

The Churchyard archway in Houghton once formed the original entrance to the Rectory on the opposite side of the road to where it is now. It was accompanied by a gatehouse and St Michael's Church Hall.
[ARCHWAY]

St Michael's Church Hall opened in 1882 and was demolished in the 1950s

ST MICHAEL'S HALL

The new church hall was opened on January 10th 1882 by the Lord Bishop of Durham and was named St Michael's Hall in 1884. In the 1950s it was demolished when HUDC acquired the Rectory and grounds.
[CHURCH HALL]

Clergy House, a curatage, was used as a Rectory and is now a dental practice

CLERGY HOUSE

Clergy House, on Dairy Lane, was used as a curatage for the curates of St Michael's Church. Between 1948 and 2005 it was used as a Rectory (Rev'ds Gwilliam, Brett, Fisher & Wallis) and is now a dental practice.
[THE CURATAGE]

This building is the so-called Tithe Barn in Houghton Rectory Park

THE BARN/STABLES

This building can be found at the rear of Clergy House and is referred to as the 'old tithe barn'. Tithe barns were used to store tithes – a tenth of a tenant farm’s produce, which was to be given to the parish church.
[THE BARN]

The Gilpin Thorn hawthorn growing in Houghton Rectory Park

THE GILPIN THORN

Known as the Gilpin Thorn, this holy hawthorn is thought to have grown from a cutting taken from the legendary Glastonbury Thorn in the grounds of the Abbey by Bernard Gilpin, Rector of Houghton 1557 to 1583.
[THE GILPIN THORN] | [GLASTONBURY THORN]

Water fountains as found in Houghton Rectory Park

WATER FOUNTAINS

Houghton Rectory Park has had many trickling water fountains over the years, from smaller ones when it was the private grounds of the Rector to the large travertine stone fountain we know and love today.
[PARK FOUNTAINS]

Unusual piscinae found in the boundary wall of Houghton Rectory Park - but what are they?

UNUSUAL PISCINAE

In the north wall of the Rectory grounds are several sunken holes, very similar in shape to a piscina. They were probably installed as a place to grow wall flowers but many suggestions exist as to what they are.
[UNUSUAL PISCINAE]

Houghton Urban District Council's chamber can be found inside the old Rectory building

COUNCIL CHAMBER

The oak panelled Council Chamber of Houghton Urban District Council is found on the first floor of the Old Rectory building was used by the Council from 1949 until 1974 when Sunderland Borough Council took over.
[HUDC COUNCIL CHAMBER]

Houghton Area Offices were in the Rectory grounds from 1967 until demolished in June 2011

HOUGHTON AREA OFFICE

On November 18th 1967, Cllr Mawston laid the foundation stone for the new Council Offices. Around a year later the building was opened by Cllr Edward Kelly. The offices were demolished in June 2011.
[HOUGHTON COUNCIL OFFICES]

The John Mawston Bench can be found in the Rectory Park, next to the Old Rectory

JOHN MAWSTON SEAT

This John Mawston Bench was installed in 1987/88 in recognition of Cllr Mawston’s contributions to Houghton Feast. It was still in situ in early 2013 but is liable to be moved since the demolition of the Council Offices.
[JOHN MAWSTON SEAT]

Public toilets in the Rectory Park, now demolished

PUBLIC TOILETS

The Park's public toilets, next to Vine Place, were boarded up and derelict for many years having gained an unsavourory reputation. They were finally demolished in 2010 and replaced with a stone wall.
[PARK TOILETS]

Precious WWII treasures and mementos rescued from the demolished Houghton Area Office by Houghton Heritage Society

WWII TREASURES

Houghton Area Office was home to ten treasures/artefacts, many from WWII. These were nearly demolished with the building until Paul Lanagan brought their attention to the Council in 2011.
[PARK TREASURES]

The grave of Rector John Grey's pet dog, Bijou

PET DOG GRAVE

Upon the sad occasion of the death of Rector Grey's pet dog, Bijou, in 1878, the Rector had his trusted dog buried in the Rectory grounds, in the corner next to the Church Street and Durham Road crossroads wall.
[BIJOU'S GRAVE]

A list of all of Houghton-le-Spring's Rectors at St Michael & All Angels Church 1131 - 2008

HOUGHTON'S RECTORS

Houghton's newest Rector, Rev Canon Sue Pinnington, joined the long list of illustrious men responsible for Houghton's spiritual upkeep. The last to live in the Rectory was Rev Hugh Edward Ashdown (shown above).
[THE RECTORS]

This unusual firemark can be found on the side of the old Rectory building in Houghton's Rectory Park

INSURANCE FIRE MARK

A plaque featuring Britannia and the number 33014 adorns the front wall of the Rectory. It is a fire mark for London Assurance and was attached to confirm that the building was insured for fire risks.
[FIRE MARK]

Unusual sunken trees growing in Houghton Rectory Park

SUNKEN TREES

An unusual arboretum of trees can be found in the north-east corner of the Rectory grounds, next to the Newbottle Street opening, a result of the landscaping following the building of Houghton Area Office in 1967.
[SUNKEN TREES]

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 4,000 members and the group is very popular with residents, descendants and ex-pats.
[FACEBOOK]

Videos and cine footage of Houghton-le-Spring's Rectory Park

VIDEOS OF HOUGHTON

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 Houghton's Rectory Park and grounds.
[YOUTUBE VIDEOS]

Old photographs of Houghton-le-Spring shared via Flickr

OLD PHOTOGRAPHS

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]