The Church of St Mary the Virgin

Little Houghton, Northamptonshire

History of St Mary’s Church

Domesday Book does not record a church in the village, but around AD1100 there is evidence that one was founded by William de Hohtone.  No traces of the original building, probably of wood, remain.  Of the present church, the south door arch and the font are thought to date from about AD1200.

The original tower, of three storeys dating from c1225, is of fine proportion with an upper arcade of five openings on each face.  It is likely that they were filled-in, creating a ‘blind’ arcade, when the fourth, belfry, storey with parapet and finely decorated limestone frieze, was added in about 1425.  The blind arcade is considered to be an unusual and special feature of the tower, the whole of which underwent a complete restoration in 2010.

The church was substantially rebuilt in the Gothic style in 1873-74, when the nave was heightened, with clerestory, and the north aisle added.  The tower arch, heavily restored during the Victorian rebuilding, and the chancel arch together with an adjacent, smaller arch in the south wall of the chancel, are the only parts that remain of the early thirteenth century work.  An extension to the west end of the north aisle was added in 2000, to provide kitchen facilities.

The only mediaeval furnishings to survive are three misericord seats in the chancel; they have heads of men and monsters as arm-pieces.  The tower contains five bells, the oldest dating from 1625, and the ingenious wooden bell-frame, set diagonally in the window recesses, was installed in 1637; such frames are now rare.

The glass is mainly late Victorian, and is considered to be of good quality.  An early William Hill organ was acquired from a redundant church in Birmingham in 2000, when it was rebuilt to its original 1846 specification; it is listed as being an instrument of historic national importance.