History in Structure

Church of St Mary the Virgin

A Grade II* Listed Building in Great Houghton, West Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.2233 / 52°13'23"N

Longitude: -0.8422 / 0°50'31"W

OS Eastings: 479183

OS Northings: 258977

OS Grid: SP791589

Mapcode National: GBR BWJ.PVB

Mapcode Global: VHDS6.CC3Y

Plus Code: 9C4X65F5+84

Entry Name: Church of St Mary the Virgin

Listing Date: 3 May 1968

Last Amended: 19 January 2011

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1039647

English Heritage Legacy ID: 232104

ID on this website: 101039647

Location: St Mary Blessed Virgin, Great Houghton, West Northamptonshire, NN4

County: West Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Great Houghton

Built-Up Area: Great Houghton

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Great Houghton St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough

Tagged with: Church building

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HIGH STREET (West side),

(Formerly listed as:



Built 1754 to designs by William and David Hiorne. Restored 1875-79 by J H Hakewill. Refurbished 1910-11.

Largely ironstone ashlar with slate roofs and limestone ashlar on the tower.

Unaisled nave with W tower and S porch. Very shallow chancel.

A small church with a tall spire, wholly in a Classical style of the mid C18 except for the C19 neo-Norman windows inserted into the C18 openings and the C19 S porch. The nave N and S facades are designed in 3 bays, the central bay on each side breaking forward slightly and rising to a shallow pediment, an arrangement. A strongly defined plinth, string course, and dentil cornice further divides the facades into three horizontal sections. The appearance of the nave was altered by the replacement of the C18 windows in the 1870s with neo-Romanesque windows of 2 lights with nook shafts and the addition of a faux-medieval S porch, with a door matching the windows replacing the C18 S door. The N door is blocked by a C19 window. The E gable of the nave is expressed as a pediment with a dentil cornice, and the cornice and strings also continue around the chancel. The very shallow chancel has a Venetian E window, the side lights of which were blocked in 1910-11, and a hipped roof. The elegant W tower in the style of Gibbs is the least altered part of the church. The square lower stage repeats the high plinth, intermediate string course, and cornice of the nave. The second stage which breaks the nave roof, is of limestone and has a tall, round headed W window in C18 style. Above this is a slim octagonal stage surrounded by a peristyle of 8 Tuscan columns supporting a cornice and curved buttresses leading to the tall, octagonal spire. The buttresses once supported vases, but these have been removed, presumably by Hakewill. The top of the spire has an iron weathervane.

The interior walls are plastered and painted, and the flat ceiling has a cornice. There is a plain round arch into the sanctuary recess. A C18 gallery was removed in the 1870s refurbishment and the church reseated. In 1910-11, it was further modified, with the sanctuary lengthened into the nave on a shallow platform. The sanctuary floor is paved in marble, and the walls part panelled with C18 panelling.

C19 Gothic-style font and timber pulpit with blind arcading. Some good C18 and C19 wall tablets in the nave including Francis Brownsmith (d. 1778) and Theophilus Goodfellow, rector (d. 1782), both by William Cox Snr.

Little is known of the medieval church, which was dedicated to the Assumption and described by Bridges in his history of Northamptonshire as having had a chancel and aisled nave. In 1753 it was found to be `greatly decayed' and was demolished the following year. Its replacement, the present building, was built in `a plain, decent, and commodious manner, without unnecessary ornament' probably to designs by William (c. 1712-1776) and David (1715-58) Hiorne (Hiorns or Hiorn) of Warwick, `the leading architects and master builders of Warwick in the middle of the eighteenth century' (Colvin). The attribution rests on an advertisement placed in the Northampton Mercury of 31 March 1755 offering for sale `All the OLD LEAD belonging to Great-Houghton Church', and instructing prospective purchasers to apply to `Mr David Hiorn, or Mr Smith, his Foreman, at Great Houghton aforesaid' (this may suggest David Hiorne as the architect but, in common with much of their work, it is difficult to distinguish between the brothers as designers). William Hiorne trained as a mason and David as a carpenter and joiner; they emerged from the shadow of the Smiths of Warwick, for whom they worked in the 1740s. Their houses are `Palladian or in a simple, almost styleless, Georgian which they managed to invest with elegance' (Gomme). The Hiorne's two other churches were likewise classical in style. A late C18 or early C19 engraving shows the central bay with a six-panelled S door in a surround with a cornice on brackets, and a Diocletian window above it, an arrangement reminiscent of the W front of the Hiorne's contemporary church at Daventry. The Georgian church was overhauled in 1875-79 by J H Hakewill (1810-80) with the insertion of neo-Romanesque windows in the nave, including one blocking the original N door, and a new Romanesque-style S porch; his proposed additions of an apse and organ loft, and the removal of the nave ceiling, were never carried out. Further restoration was carried out in the early C20 when the side lights of the E window were blocked.

Lambeth Palace Library, Incorporated Church Building Society file 07952
Brodie, A et al, Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, vol 1, 2001, 812-13
Colvin, H A, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, 4th ed. 2008, 520-23
Pevsner, N and Cherry B, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire, 1973, 235
Salzman, LF ed, The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Northamptonshire IV (1937), 262-66
Whiffen, M, Stuart and Georgian Churches Outside London, 1603 to 1836, 1947-8, 44 and pl. 79
Gomme, A, William and David Hiorne, in `The Architectural Outsiders', ed. R Brown, 1985, 55

The church of St Mary the Virgin, Great Houghton, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: Hiorne's classical church is a well-executed design indebted to James Gibbs, exemplifying mid C18 approaches
* Materials: the masonry, of local ironstone, is of high quality
* Victorian alterations: the distinctive Norman Revival phase contrasts markedly with the Hiorne's work, and reflects attitudes to church restoration, and the desire to soften classical churches with medieval touches

Church of St Mary the Virgin, The Old Rectory and the Rectory Dovecote form a group.

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