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Rectors of St Michael & All Angels Church, Houghton-le-Spring, 1131 to 2008

Rector John Grey, 1847 - 1895

St Michael & All Angels Church has had a long line of Rectors looking after its good fortunes. There have been 52 Rectors (that we know of), including two intruders, since 1131. Medieval Rectors probably never even visited Houghton.
Copyright © Books of the North 2000 - 2010.

The new incumbent, Rev Canon Sue Pinnington, was inducted on October 29th 2008.

* Initials after a Rector's name indicate qualification or theological degree, e.g. STB. This list is not complete.

1131 – Renaldus – nothing more is known about this shadowy rector.

1147 – Rogerus – Presbyter of Houghton.

1258 – Master Geoffrey de Sancta Agatha - previously of Carlisle.

1260 – John Mansell.

1294 – Robert de Beckenham.

1310 – William de Sancta Botolpho – also Archdeacon of Durham.

1311 – Stephen de Manley.

1326 – Theobald de la Valle.

1330 – Manserus Marmeyon – already Prebendary of Lanchester Collegiate Church.

1347 – William Dalton – already Prebendary of Hastings and Bridgnorth, and Sacrist of Beverley.

Copyright © Books of the North 2000 - 2010.

1365 – William Burstall.

1377 – John Henley.

1390 – Thomas Walkington – also Archdeacon of Cleveland.

1410 – John Newton - described by the 18th century historian, Hutchinson, as ‘a bad man’ while he was Master of Sherburn Hospital.

1417 - 1420 – John Kemp - to be confirmed.

1427 – Henry Oculshagh.

1434 – Thomas Astleigh (or Astley).

1470 – Henry Gillow – buried in the churchyard with his mother, under what is now the vestry.

Houghton Rectory
Houghton Rectory

1483 – Henry Keeling – fortified part of the Rectory. A year later a Durham pardon licence to crenallate was issued by the Bishop of Durham to John Kelyng, Rector. The document read: "Has pardon for having without licence begun to fortify a house within his rectory; and licence to continue the works."

1490 – Alexander Lyghe – within 12 months he was stricken with palsy and a coadjutor, Robert Kent, was appointed to look after the Church.

1500 – Robert Kent, S T P – appointed after the resignation of Lyghe.

1528 – William Franklyn (or Frankeleyn), S T B – held numerous positions and never lived in Houghton. The Rectory fell into disrepair. He died in 1555.

1555 - Unknown.

Copyright © Books of the North 2000 - 2010.

Rector Bernard Gilpin

Bernard Gilpin

1558 – Bernard Gilpin, S T B – Apostle of the North and Father of the Poor. He was knocked down by an ox in Durham Market Place and died shortly afterwards on March 4th 1583. Find out more about Bernard Gilpin by clicking HERE

1583 – Emmanuel Barnes, S T P.

1585 – Robert Bellamy, MA, MD – a doctor of medicine. Rector Bellamy was also a Governor of the Royal Kepier Grammar School.

1589 – Robert Hutton, S T P – nephew of Dr Matthew Hutton, Bishop of Durham, builder of Houghton Hall.

1623 – Augustine Lindsell, S T P.

1632 – Peter Heylin (or Haylin), S T P – a historian and Chaplain to Charles I.

John Barwick
William Sancroft
John Barwick
Wm Sancroft

1633 – Hamlet Marshall, S T P – originated in Hampshire.

1645 – John Barwick, S T P – (aka Johannes Barwick) took up residence in the Rectory 15 years later, his duties carried out by Justice Delaval of Hetton. His appointment was during the Civil War by a Bishop who had had his powers removed! Rev Barwick was charged with high treason and was committed to the Tower of London for over 2 years! The Vestry Book of 1660 states that "Jo Philpott is to be admitted clerke of the parish of the consent of Dr Barwick the Rector of Houghton aforesaid, and the churchwardens." In 1661 he became Dean of St Paul's Cathedral. It is said that he was given the Rectory in 1641.

Intruder – M. Meastrop – intruder to the incumbency.

Intruder – Nicholas Battersby – intruder to the incumbency.

1661 – William Sancroft, S T P – left St Michael's in 1664 to become Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, London. He became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1677, described as ‘quiet, gentle, unobtrusive but firm as a rock’; he died in Fressingfield, Suffolk, 1693. His grave is still in a very good condition. In Houghton, a comprehensive school was named in his honour - Sancroft School which opened on Dairy Lane in 1975.

1664 – George Davenport, MA – from Leicester, rebuilt the Rectory from the ground, and founded three of the Almshouses. He died on July 6th 1677 and was interred in the north transept of St Michael's Church.

1667 – Robert Clark, MA.

Copyright © Books of the North 2000 - 2010.

1677 – Henry Bagshaw, S T P – Chaplain to the British Ambassador in Spain and Portugal, he died on December 30th 1709 aged 77 years. A memorial marks his death in the south transept of St Michael's Church.

1710 – Sir George Wheler, S T P – born at Breda in the Netherlands on 20 January 1651, he had a family of eighteen, his daughter married Dr Thomas Sharp, Archdeacon of Northumberland, in the private chapel of Houghton Rectory. George was knighted when he was 17 years old in 1682! Find out about his charity school for girls, which was housed in the Rectory Gatehouse, by clicking HERE. He died on the 15th January 1724 and was buried inside Durham Cathedral.

1723 – Thomas Secker, MA, DD – Rector for 3 years, before becoming the Chaplain to the King in 1732. He went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1758.

George Wheler
Thomas Secker
George Wheler
Thomas Secker

1727 – Richard Stonehewer, MA – a former Rector of Washington, he was at Houghton for 42 years, but was a cause of a bitter dispute with the Master and Governors of the Royal Kepier Grammar School in 1746.

1769 – John Rotheram, MA – Rector for 20 years, he was liked by people of all denominations; he was buried in the Chancel of St Michael’s following his death at Bamburgh Castle on July 16th 1789, at the age of 64 years. His grave is next to that of his his brother in the south transept of St Michael's Church; their grave is marked by a marble tablet with a Latin inscription.

Rev John Rotheram, Rector of Houghton-le-Spring

St Michaels in the 1700s
St Michaels in the 1700s

1789 – Edward South Thurlow, MA – the longest reigning Rector of Houghton, he removed the embattlements of the Rectory. He died in 1847 aged 82 years.

Copyright © Books of the North 2000 - 2010.

1847 – Rev & Hon John Grey, MD, DD – founder of the controversial Houghton Hillside Cemetery, where he was buried upon his death in 1895.

1895 – Dr Alfred Merle Norman, MA, DSc. FRS – from Somerset, a researcher of marine zoology. Rev Norman was no stranger to Houghton when he became Rector: he was a curate of St Michael's between 1864 and 1866, and following that was Rector of Bournmoor for 29 years. He became Rector at Houghton and Rural Dean following Rev John Grey's death in 1895. He was at Houghton until his retirement in 1898 owing to ill health. He died on October 25th 1918.

Rector John Grey
Rev Alfred Merle Norman
John Grey
Alfred Merle Norman

1898 – Frederick Brown, MA.

1907 – Reginald Heart Yeld – MA of Trinity College, Dublin. He died on July 2nd 1910. A brass plaque in St Michael's chancel commemorates his time as Rector. His death was reported in the Times newspaper on Monday July 4th 1910:
YELD - On the 2nd July, at the Rectory, Houghton-le-Spring, aged 61 years, the REV. REGINALD HEART YELD, M.A.,
Rector and Rural Dean, youngest son of the late William Walter Yeld, of Alrewas Manor, Staffs, and Sunderland.
Services in St. Michael's Church, Houghton-le-Spring, on Wednesday, July 6th, at 11,30 a.m.
Internment at the New Cemetery, Houghton-le-Spring

Find out more by clicking HERE.

1910 – Cuthbert Edward Adamson, MA – born June 27th 1847, he was the first Rector of Houghton to be from County Durham. His incumbency, 1910 to 1921, covered the First World War; his son, Lieutenant Francis Douglas Adamson, was killed in action in France on November 16th 1915; on the first anniversary of his son's death, a marble tablet was unveiled by the Bishop of Durham in St Michael's to commemorate his passing. In December 1920, Rev Adamson gave notice of his intention to retire. He left the Parish in the early months of 1921 and moved to Sunderland, where he died on May 4th 1922.

Rev Cuthbert Edward Adamson, Rector of Houghton-le-Spring 1910 - 1921

1924 – Canon Ralph Watson, MA, BD - Ralph Watson was an honorary Canon of Durham and Rural Dean. He was installed as Rector on July 16th 1924 until his death on October 25th 1942.

1943 – Hugh Edward Ashdown, MA, DD – Bishop of Newcastle. In 1948 he became Provost of Southwark Cathedral and in 1957 became Bishop of Newcastle. He died on December 26th 1977.

Copyright © Books of the North 2000 - 2010.

1948 – Oswald Noel Gwilliam, BA – was ordained in 1926/27 and served throughout the Durham diocese. His curacy was in Gateshead, and he served as Vicar at Holy Trinity, South Shields, 1932 – 1941, and then Seaham, 1941 – 1948. He helped to rejuvenate the Houghton Feast celebrations. A memorial service was held in St Michaels Church when he died on February 21st 1997. Find out more about this respected man HERE.

Rev Oswald Noel Gwilliam
Rev Peter Brett
Oswald N Gwilliam
Peter Brett

1972 – Peter Brett, MA – Rev Brett arrived at Houghton in April 1972. He left the Parish on August 1st 1983 and was installed at Canterbury Cathedral as a Residentiary Canon. Over 200 people travelled from Houghton to view the installation.

1983 – Peter Timothy Fisher – after Houghton he became Principal of Queen’s College, Birmingham. In 2000 he was appointed an Honorary Canon of Birmingham Cathedral.

Oct 1995 - 2007 – Dr Ian G Wallis – left St Michael's in Summer 2007 to become Principal of the Northern Ordination Course. Rev Wallis was to preach at the 2008 Houghton Feast Civic Service, but was sadly unwell at the time. Rev Wallis was installed as Vicar of St Mark's Church, Broomhill, Sheffield, in June 2009. The church's January 2009 newsletter shared Rev Wallis's reasons for wanting to join the church:

"Fortuitously, my earliest memory of a church interior is of St. Mark’s occasioned by junior school carol services. I can still remember being awed by the stained glass and sheer scale of it all. Since then, this church has come to occupy a special place in my affections and I have followed with keen interest its growth and blossoming ….Nostalgia, though, is not my reason for applying. Rather, St. Mark’s is living proof that a liberal-critical approach to Christian believing can yield a vibrant community of faith which is grounded in the ministry of Jesus, delights in human diversity, embraces intellectual inquiry and is open to what God is doing in the world in, through and beyond the church. I support the work of St Mark’s Centre for Radical Christianity, having been a member and attended various conferences, and would be keen to champion its causes and contribute to its development in the future.”

Rev Ian Wallis
Rev Canon Sue Pinnington, Rector of St Michael's Church, Houghton-le-Spring
Ian G Wallis
Rev Sue Pinnington

Oct 29th 2008 – Rev Canon Sue Pinnington – Houghton-le-Spring's first female Rector. Rev Pinnington hails from the Wirral and is a graduate of Durham University. She was inducted into St Michael's on October 29th 2008. In 2010, Sue was recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to Cottingley and was later awarded an MBE.


Article and research by Paul Lanagan, local historian

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Paul Lanagan wishes to place on record his thanks to the following:

This time line has been compiled from several sources.

With thanks to Tom Brett for help in confirming the little details I am obsessed with knowing; I am sure these will be of more interest in 50 years time!

Images of Rev John Rotheram and Rev Cuthbert Edward Adamson from 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne Volumes 5-6'.



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