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St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Little Houghton, Northamptonshire

(52°13′46″N, 0°49′32″W)
Little Houghton
SP 803 597
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Northamptonshire
now Northamptonshire
  • Ron Baxter

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St Mary's has a clerestoreyed nave of three bays with 19thc. arcades. In fact, although both arcades appear the same, the N aisle dates from Buckeridge's 1873 restoration, while the S arcade was only restored at that date. The S aisle extends W halfway along the tower, while the N aisle stops at the tower junction. A vestry has recently been added alongside the tower on the N. At the E end of the nave, the aisles extend to form chapels alongside the chancel, the N deeper than the S. Both have arches from the chancel; the N arch 19thc., the S late medieval.

The chancel arch and W tower arch are both Perpendicular; the latter badly distorted. In its three lower storeys the tower is 13thc., with attractive blind arcading on the 3rd storey. A 4th storey with bell-openings and battlements was added in the 15thc. Construction is of orange-brown ashlar blocks with courses of varying thicknesses. Romanesque work is found in the S doorway and the font.


Little Houghton was held by Countess Judith in 1086.

Benefice of Cogenhoe and Great Houghton and Little Houghton with Brafield-on-the-Green.


Exterior Features





Pevsner dates the doorway to c.1200; it is more probably 13thc. with intrusive 19thc. remodelling. The use of three arch orders on two jamb orders is unusual and awkward. The font is more problematic, but for different reasons. It seems likely that the insert at the rim has exacerbated the cracking of the bowl, and that its own weight falling away to the S is opening the main crack further. The other repairs carried out over the years have made matters worse by increasing the weight of the bowl, and by imposing strains which can only be accommodated by cracking of the stone. This state of affairs is analysed in Beesley (2003). The suggested solution is to remove the filling material within, and to fix a lead lining onto a lightweight collar centrally place, which will transmit its weight straight down onto the central shaft. This lining would be sealed at the rim with a flexible material (acid-free plastazote foam), which will allow expansion and contraction. Pevsner wondered whether the font was Norman, or an imitation. The present author supposes that it is a 12thc. piece that has had a good deal of work done on it, including the removal of a lower rim and drastic surface cleaning. This might well have contributed to the present instability by reducing the thickness of the walls.

Victoria County History: Northamptonshire. IV (1937), 269-70.
J. Bridges, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire. (Compiled from the manuscript collections of the late learned antiquary J.Bridges, Esq., by the Rev. Peter Whalley).
M. Beesley, 'Little Houghton Church: Font. Structural Observations and Repair Recommendations.' Fairhaven of Anglesey Abbey Ltd report, 19 Dec. 2003.
RCHME Report, uncatalogued.