Houghton on the Hill, Norfolk

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Houghton on the Hill
St Mary, Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk - geograph.org.uk - 309241.jpg
Saint Mary's Parish Church, Houghton on the Hill
Houghton on the Hill is located in Norfolk
Houghton on the Hill
Houghton on the Hill
 Houghton on the Hill shown within Norfolk
OS grid reference TF868053
Civil parish North Pickenham CP
District Breckland
Shire county Norfolk
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town SWAFFHAM
Police Norfolk
Fire Norfolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament South West Norfolk
List of places

Coordinates: 52°37′39″N 0°45′13″E / 52.6275°N 0.753611°E / 52.6275; 0.753611

Houghton on the Hill was a village in the Breckland district of mid-Norfolk, East Anglia, England in the United Kingdom. Although the buildings of the village have been demolished, the parish church, St Mary's, has been restored, including its 11th century wall paintings,[1] claimed to be the oldest wall paintings of any church in Europe,[2] instigated with tireless devotion by Bob Davey MBE.[3][4][5]


There is evidence of habitation in this area going back to prehistoric times, with flint tools and a Bronze Age spearhead being found in local fields. The village was located close to the Peddars Way Roman road, and a large villa and, possibly, a temple were located nearby.

The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book, being owned by Reynold, son of Ivo. A man called Herlwin held land in Houghton from Reynold. The present nave of the church was built at this time, and the paintings inside date from this period.

Francis White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk, 1854, states that the parish consisted of 10 houses, with 50 residents and 600 acres of land.[6] The 1871 census shows 38 people living in 10 properties.[7] During World War I the church was damaged when a Zeppelin dropped a bomb into the churchyard.[8] The final derelict cottages were demolished in the 1990s.

St Mary's Church wall paintings[edit]

Extensive polychrome wall paintings were noticed during restoration in 1996, and it soon became evident that they were of major significance. Romanesque wall paintings are very rare, and certain aspects of the iconography, particularly the quatrefoil cross on God’s knee on the east wall, have given rise to a date of around 1090, or late 11th century.[9]

The best-preserved scheme is on the east wall, which depicts the Last Judgment. Over the arch of the chancel we see the Trinity, comprising Father, Son and Holy Spirit, set within a triple mandorla. Beneath and to the left are the souls of the saved, and to the right, probably the souls of the damned (one seemingly wearing a crown).

Further down and to the left are a well-preserved set of figures holding scrolls, which might be construed as apostles or saints, and to the right a badly-damaged matching group of figures that some have interpreted as demons, but which may represent the remaining six apostles, making twelve in all. Beneath and to the left is a scene depicting the Raising of the Dead.


  1. ^ "Comprehensive St. Mary's .pdf file" (PDF). Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  2. ^ http://www.churchgatecastleacre.co.uk/local-area.html
  3. ^ Bob Davey MBE[dead link]
  4. ^ Mr Davey Versus The Devil. Google Books. 2005. ISBN 9781586170776. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  5. ^ "Heritage Lottery Fund". BBC News. 11 May 2006. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  6. ^ Norfolk - Houghton-on-the-Hill
  7. ^ Census 1871
  8. ^ St Mary, Houghton on the Hill
  9. ^ "Comprehensive St. Mary's .pdf file" (PDF). Retrieved 16 December 2011. 

External links[edit]