THE PARISH CHURCHESHoughtonandWytoneachpossessamedievalchurchonlyaquarterofamileapart,butthatinWytonwasclosedin 1974.DomesdayBook1086makesmentionofbothandstatesthattherewasapriestatWyton,butnoreferenceismadeto anyatHoughton.Itisprobable,therefore,thatonepriestservedthetwoparishes,apracticewhichcontinueduntil1847 whenindividualincumbentswereappointed.Theparishesremainedseparateuntil1961.Fromquiteearlytimesit appearsthetwochurchesweretreatedasiftheywereonebeingreferredtoinancientdocumentsas“thechurchof WittonandHocton".Incidentally,asWytonisusuallynamedfirst,thisindicatesthatitwasthemoreimportantofthe two.AsissofrequentlythecaseinHuntingdonshire,thechurchesofvillagesborderingtheOuseareplacedclosetotheriver bankbutexactlywhythisshouldbesohasnotbeendefinitelyexplained.Houghtonchurchisnoexceptiontothisrule,a glanceatalarge-scaleOrdnancemapwillshowanoldwatercoursebythesouth-westcornerofthechurchyard.Wyton church, on the other hand, has never been on the river bank.Bychance,bothchurcheshavedevelopedalmostidenticalgroundplansoverthecenturiesbychangeswhichtookplace atdifferenttimes.Thus,eachhasalongchancel,anavetowhichhasbeenaddedanorthaisleoffourbays,asouth porchandawesterntowerandspire.Howtheyarrivedattheirpresentplanwillbebrieflyexplainedintheaccounts which follow.T H E CHURCH OF ST. MARY O F H O U G H T O NWeknowfromDomesdayBook1086thattherewasachurchinHoughtonatthattime.Therearenotracesofany earlier buildings on this site.Theearliestworknowstandingisthechancelwhichwasrebuiltandprobablylengthenedinthesecondhalfofthe13th century,themiddlewindowofthethreeinthesouthwall,oflancet-shape,togetherwiththechancelarchbeingofthis period.Earlyinthenextcenturythelightingofthechancelwasimproved;aneweastwindowwasinsertedandanother withnet-liketraceryoftwolightswasplacednearthewestendofthenorthwall.Atthesametimeasmalldoorway,a shortdistanceeastofthelatterwasformed.Thisisanunusualpositionbutperhapsitwasforthepriest'suseasthereis nosignoftheusualdooronthesouth.Someyearslateranothertwo-lightwindowwasplacedinthesouthwallwestof the 13th century one.About1350anextensiverebuildingwasundertakenandanorthaisleoffourbayswasaddedtothenave.Abovethe aislearchesaclerestoryoffourquatrefoilsenclosedwithinsquareopeningswasincluded.Oncompletionthiswas followedbytheerectionofthepresenttowerandspire,completedbeforetheendofthecentury.Thechurchthen assumedtheshapeithastodaywhichhasnotbeenmateriallyalteredsince.Asouthporchwouldnormallyhaveformed partoftherebuildingbutithasdisappearedandtheexistingonehasthedate1664inlargefiguresonthewesternjamb of the entrance arch.Minorimprovementsconnectedwithbetterlightingweremadeinthe15thcentury.Anewtwo-lightwindoweastofthe centrallancetwasinsertedinthesouthwallofthechanceltogivemorelighttothealtar.Thetraceryoftheeastwindow wastakenoutandreplacedbynewof“Perpendicular”character,andtwowindowsofthree-lightswereinsertedinthe south wall of the nave.
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HISTORYTHE PARISH CHURCHESHoughton and Wyton each possess a medieval church only a quarter of a mile apart, but that in Wyton was closed in 1974.Domesday Book 1086 makes mention of both and states that there was a priest at Wyton, but no reference is made to any at Houghton. It is probable, therefore, that one priest served the two parishes, a practice which continued until 1847 when individual incumbents were appointed. The parishes remained separate until 1961. From quite early times it appears the two churches were treated as if they were one being referred to in ancient documents as “the church of Witton and Hocton". Incidentally, as Wyton is usually named first, this indicates that it was the more important of the two.As is so frequently the case in Huntingdonshire, the churches of villages bordering the Ouse are placed close to the river bank but exactly why this should be so has not been definitely explained. Houghton church is no exception to this rule, a glance at a large-scale Ordnance map will show an old water course by the south-west corner of the churchyard. Wyton church, on the other hand, has never been on the river bank.By chance, both churches have developed almost identical ground plans over the centuries by changes which took place at different times. Thus, each has a long chancel, a nave to which has been added a north aisle of four bays, a south porch and a western tower and spire. How they arrived at their present plan will be briefly explained in the accounts which follow. The Church of St. Mary at HoughtonWe know from Domesday Book 1086 that there was a church in Houghton at that time. There are no traces of any earlier buildings on this site.The earliest work now standing is the chancel which was rebuilt and probably lengthened in the second half of the 13th century, the middle window of the three in the south wall, of lancet-shape, together with the chancel arch being of this period. Early in the next century the lighting of the chancel was improved; a new east window was inserted and another with net-like tracery of two lights was placed near the west end of the north wall. At the same time a small doorway, a short distance east of the latter was formed. This is an unusual position but perhaps it was for the priest's use as there is no sign of the usual door on the south. Some years later another two-light window was placed in the south wall west of the 13th century one.About 1350 an extensive rebuilding was undertaken and a north aisle of four bays was added to the nave. Above the aisle arches a clerestory of four quatrefoils enclosed within square openings was included. On completion this was followed by the erection of the present tower and spire, completed before the end of the century. The church then assumed the shape it has today which has not been materially altered since. A south porch would normally have formed part of the rebuilding but it has disappeared and the existing one has the date 1664 in large figures on the western jamb of the entrance arch.Minor improvements connected with better lighting were made in the 15th century. A new two-light window east of the central lancet was inserted in the south wall of the chancel to give more light to the altar. The tracery of the east window was taken out and replaced by new of “Perpendicular” character, and two windows of three-lights were inserted in the south wall of the nave.