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Houghton Feast on the 10th of the 10th of the 10th

Houghton Feast 10: 10am on the 10/10/10

A commemorative booklet acknowledging the mystical date of Houghton Feast 10. Featuring 10 facts and 10 glorious colour photographs of the Feast.

With a foreword by John Mawston.

Copies available at: | Purchase from this site

Houghton Feast, the ancient festival of Houghton-le-Spring, is traditionally held in early October. It originally coincided with Michaelmas, the dedication festival of St Michael & All Angels Church, on September 29th, however, the good folk of Houghton apparently refused to accept the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1752, and celebrated according to the Julian calendar, eleven days behind.

The ancient rule which dictates when the Feast should start is as follows: the Feast opens on the Sunday preceding October 10th, unless the 10th is a Sunday.

This year’s festival, 2010, features a mystical alignment of dates: Sunday, October 10th 2010 – 10/10/10! Stranger even still as the Church’s Festal Civic Service starts at 10am – 10/10/10/10. The last time such an alignment occurred was in October 1210!

Houghton Feast: Fact 08 - Sidney White's Mammoth Gavioli Organ

Houghton Feast: Fact 05 - Houghton Library's float at the annual Carnival Parade

A commemorative booklet is being produced by local historian Paul Lanagan to acknowledge this strange alignment of dates, with the duple title of ‘Houghton Feast 10 Facts About the Feast’, with the 10 referring to the year and/or the number of facts contained, depending on where you take the pause.

The booklet features photographs from the Houghton Feast Archive and is being circulated freely in the lead up to this year’s festival.

2010 is another year of celebration, as it also marks Paul Lanagan’s 10th year of involvement with Houghton Feast. Over the years he has contributed local history exhibitions, presentations, heritage talks and tours, with 2004’s ‘Haunted Houghton’ tour being the most successful, when over three hundred unexpectedly turned up! This year he is teaming up with bestselling author Sheila Quigley for their fifth ‘Homicide in Houghton’ walk, which visits the fictional murder scenes from Sheila’s books. Another of Paul’s roles is to document and record each year’s festival.

The ‘Houghton Feast 10 Facts About the Feast’ booklet is the fourth in a series of commemorative Houghton Feast brochures, which have been produced to mark special anniversaries in the Festival’s history. Each has been produced with the generous assistance of local businesses and organisations: 2007 acknowledged the 40th anniversary ox roasting; 2008 marked showman John Murphy’s 60th year of Houghton Feast; and the 2009 booklet commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Community Hymn Singing.

So where will you be when the bells of St Michael’s Church chime in 10 o’clock? Inside, sitting on a pew praying, seems like a good place to me.

Wherever you are on the 10th of the 10th of the 10th, I do hope you’ll join me in keeping the Feast!

If you have memories or photos to share, or copies of past Houghton Feast programmes which you would like to donate, please get in touch by email.


Article and research by Paul Lanagan, local historian

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