The reason why Houghton holds an ox roast each autumn

The 2019 Houghton Feast is in full swing with its centrepiece, the ox roast, taking place on Monday from 4pm.

Monday, 7th October 2019, 17:59 pm
Houghton Feast traditional ox roasting team member Ron Young

The tradition was revived in 1967. But it goes back much, much further – almost 500 years in fact. The Feast itself is thought to date back to the 1200s.

The practice of roasting an ox is held in commemoration of Rector Bernard Gilpin, who would roast and Ox or hog to feed Houghton's poor in the 16th century.

Gilpin was made Rector of Houghton by the Bishop of Durham in 1557. He stayed in the role until his death in 1583.

Houghton Feast

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He would welcome and feed his parishioners and their families each Sunday from Michaelmas, September 29, to Easter. It is believed that he would regularly give a bullock or hog for roasting to feed the poor of the parish.

In 1967 the Rotary Club of Houghton-le-Spring agreed to revive the ox roasting tradition. Houghton butchers Jack Kinmond and Bill Curry were in charge of the event.

Councillor John Mawston, then chair of Houghton Urban District Council, cut the first slice and it was served up to Rector Oswald Noel Gwilliam.

The event takes place on Feast Monday and is still organised by hard working and dedicated members of the Rotary Club. Ox roasting co-ordinator, Ron Young, 91, has overseen the roast since its revival.

In 2019 ox sandwiches are on sale at £3.50 each, with proceeds going to local charities. They are expected to sell out quickly.