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Houghton-le-Spring ( ) is part of Sunderland in the county of Tyne and Wear, North East England that has its recorded origins in Norman times. It is situated almost equidistant between the cathedral city of Durhammarker 7 miles (11.3 km) to the south-west and the centre of the City of Sunderlandmarker about 6 miles (9.7 km) to the north-east. The town of Seaham and the North Sea lie about 5 miles (8 km) directly to the east. The towns of Newbottle, Fencehouses and Hetton-le-Holemarker lie nearby. It has a population of 36,746.

Other towns within the Houghton-le-Spring postal district include: Shiney Rowmarker, Fencehousesmarker, Chilton Moormarker and Woodstone Villagemarker.

The A690 road from Durhammarker to Sunderland meets the A182 in Houghton at an unusual interchange. Heading northeast, slip roads leave the A690, heading up to a roundabout, while the A690 climbs and travels above a second roundabout, before the entry slip joins the A690 itself.


The earliest mention of the town's name is in the Boldon Book in 1183 as 'Hoctona'. An English transcription states:

In Houghton are thirteen cottagers, whose tenures, works and payments are like those of Newbotill; and three other half cottagers, who also work like the three half cottagers of Newbotill. Henry the greeve, holds two oxgangs of for his service. The smith - for his service. The carpenter holds a toft and for his service. The punder (one who impounds straying animals) has and the thraves of Houghton, Wardon and Morton; he renders 60 hens and 300 eggs. The mills of Newbotill and Bidic, with half of Raynton Mill, pay XV marks. The demesne, consisting of four carucates, and the sheep pastures are in the hands of the lord.

An ancient document dated 1220 describes the town as 'Houghton Sprynges'. The name Houghton comes from the Old English hoh meaning hill and tun meaning settlement.

In 1311 the village was owned by Albreda, widow of Lord Henry Spring, hence the addition of 'le spring'. The above explanation of the addition of ‘le Spring’ is debatable and there are alternatives. One opinion is that it is derived from the Le Spring family, Lords of Houghton in ancient times. Another explanation, which is backed up by a “Regester Booke belonginge to the Paryshe of Houghton in the Springe” from 1598, is based around the medicinal springs which flow from the surrounding limestone rocks. This latter explanation ties in with the Roman names in the area in which "le" is taken to be "in the" as in Chester-le-Street, Witton-le-Wear, Dalton-le-Dale, Hetton-le-Hole.. Credence is added to this consideration by the area of the town formerly known as the Lake and the stream/spring that nowadays still runs through the centre of the town, although this has long since been directed to run through a culvert.

The parish church of St Michael and All Angelsmarker dates back to Norman times and contains the tomb of Bernard Gilpin, known as 'the Apostle of the North'. Gilpin was Archdeacon of Durhammarker and in 1557 became the rector at Houghton-le-Spring, which at that time was one of the largest parishes in England.

During World War II, Houghton was relatively unscathed from the bombing raids on nearby Sunderland.

Houghton Feast is an ancient festival held every October in the town. It has its origins in the 1100s as the dedication festival to the Parish Church of St Michael & All Angels. Nowadays the festival lasts ten days and typically features a fairground, carnival, fireworks and ox roasting event, in commemoration of Rector Bernard Gilpin's feeding of the poor. It was expanded in the 1500s by Gilpin and furthermore in the late 1700s when it became connected with horse racing. The 1800s saw the introduction of steam-powered rides and all the fun of the fair, however events were downscaled as a result of World War II. Rector Noel Gwilliam was responsible for initiating the Feast format as we know it today and encouraging an emphasis on the religious aspects. 2005 marked the 50th anniversary since former ward councillor John Mawston became involved with Houghton Feast.

In more recent times Houghton was an active coal-mining town.


Houghton-Le-Spring's main shopping area is located in Newbottle Street which includes a supermarket, a library, the Post Office and various other retail outlets. Pubs in Houghton-Le-Spring include The White Lion, The Copt Hill, The Mill, The Burn, The Britannia and The Golden Lion which reportedly has stood for almost 300 years. The earliest records for the public house date from 1827 and show that it was owned by the Rector.

Speedway racing was staged at the racecourse. Contemporary newspaper reports indicate the sport was staged in 1930 but it may have operated at other times. Horse racing last featured at the site in 1938 owing to the outbreak of World War II the following year, and was replaced with Greyhound racing.

Nowadays locals often travel the few miles to Joes Pond between Chilton Moormarker and East Raintonmarker for walks and relaxation.

The local branch of Woolworths shut down when the company went into administration, and still stands empty. There are rumours of a Wetherspoons pub moving in or a Tesco Metro.

Famous people from Houghton-le-Spring

Bernard Gilpin (1517-1583), Apostle of the North was associated with the town. Famous amateur mathematician, William Shanks, worked out the value of Pi to 707 decimals (of which the first 527 were correct) while living in Houghton. He died in 1882 and was buried in the town. People born in the town include the actress Linden Travers (1913-2001), Trevor Horn, Paul Mullen, Jaff from the Futureheads and biologist Gordon Scurfield. Whilst people who have lived in the town include the novelist Sheila Quigley and the footballer David Knight


  1. Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Urban Areas : Table KS01 : Usual Resident Population Retrieved 2009-08-26
  2. Aerial photo
  3. Wear side online
  4. History of the town
  5. Houghton-le-Spring during World War II
  6. Houghton Feast

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