A happy 70th birthday! And you’re all invited to these Houghton celebrations

Daffodils near the Broadway/Dairy Lane entrance to the park.
Daffodils near the Broadway/Dairy Lane entrance to the park.
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Fancy a get-together with friends? Why not do it in a park which is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

What a history the Rectory Park has enjoyed in Houghton-le-Spring and now you can help to celebrate its past and its future.

The fountain in front of the side entrance of Houghton Rectory.

The fountain in front of the side entrance of Houghton Rectory.

Celebrations start with The BIG LUNCH on Saturday, June 1, from noon to 4pm.

It will be hosted by Acumen Community Buildings in conjunction with Events2gogo.

As well as getting along to the celebrations, officials would also love to hear from anyone with their own photographs and memories of Rectory Park.

The BIG LUNCH is the UK’s biggest annual get together for neighbours. It’s a simple idea from the Eden Project where as many people as possible across the UK have lunch with their neighbours annually on a weekend in June in an act of community, friendship and fun.

This will be an opportunity for the Houghton community to picnic in the park and have fun. There will be activities for young and old

Brenda Graham

Brenda Graham, from the Friends of Houghton Rectory Park, said: “This will be an opportunity for the Houghton community to picnic in the park and have fun. There will be activities for young and old.”

Rectory Park is one of the oldest gardens in the UK. Since at least the 12th century, it has been the garden for the Rectory and became a public park in 1949 after being given to the people of Houghton-le-Spring.

Back in April 1949, more than 500 people turned up to see its unveiling as a public amenity.

There were civic dignitaries, members of the clergy and residents from Houghton itself. Since then, the Rectory has been a favoured spot for some great events.

The crocus walk from West border.

The crocus walk from West border.

On Saturday May 2, 1953, the Labour Party Annual Garden Fête was held there and the Houghton Ward held something similar just nine years later.

A tea and concert for the pensioners of the area took place on August 14, 1954, and again on September 3, 1960.

The year 1965 was a busy one for the park with a National Savings floral display in the August, and Sunday evening band concerts bringing a touch of entertainment as autumn approached.

By the next March, it was the centenary of RAOB North Durham Province and they celebrated in the Rectory Park.

In 1967, it was the turn of the St John Ambulance Brigade to use the park for their competitions and for the Durham Light Infantry band to perform.

And an exhibition by the Parks department meant it was still kept busy in 1968.

In more recent times, the park has played its own part in important events, such as the 500th anniversary of the birth of Bernard Gilpin when it hosted a guided walk in 2017.

In 2012, the Friends of Rectory Park won Community Group Award and has continued to have a big role to play and watch out for more events this year.

For more details on The BIG LUNCH, contact Trish Thompson (trish.thompson@acumencommunitybuildings.co.uk).

Meanwhile, Brenda called for local people to play their own part in an important anniversary. She said: “I am appealing for both photographs of the park and memories of time enjoyed in the park as I’m intending to produce a display for the BIG LUNCH.

“If anyone has photos or information they would like to share could these be sent to The Old Rectory, The Broadway, Houghton-le-Spring DH4 4BB or info@communityacumenbuildings.co.uk

“I have been a volunteer for the Friends of Houghton Rectory Park for almost three years now.

“We have work sessions from 9.30am to noon on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings.

“We welcome anyone to come along to support the group at our meetings which are held at 7pm for one hour, on the first Tuesday of each month.”

Those meetings are held in the Kepier Hall. Brenda added: “We particularly welcome volunteers for the work sessions.”

On top of all that, a project called Blooming Good Health is being held in Houghton Rectory, with gardening workshops on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, running from 10am to 12pm.

Those interested in finding out more should email sue.walton@acumencommunitybuildings.co.uk.

And if anyone can help with photographs or memorabilia, they should deposit them to Brenda Graham, c/o Acumen Community Buildings, The Old Rectory, The Broadway, Houghton-le-Spring, DH4 ABB.