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All Saints Church Houghton Regis

All Saints Church Houghton Regis

History Of All Saints Church, Houghton Regis


The Parish Church of Houghton Regis occupies a commanding position in the centre of the village. It us a stately building, chiefly decorated in style, but with Perpendicular additions, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, a south porch and a very fine west tower. The present structure is successor to that earlier church referred to in the Domesday Record of 1086.

The chancel, nave and aisles were built in the early part of the 14th century; all the walls, however have been entirely rebuilt and new windows inserted. The nave and aisles are decorated with battlements exactly similar to those of the tower, and with gargoyles of interest. At its rebuilding in 1879, the chancel was also decorated with parapets.

The wall of the north aisle is divided by buttresses into five bays; in the third of these is a modern doorway. There is also a blocked arch in doorway in the wall of the eastern bay of this aisle. It is level with the rood screen, and is considered by some authorities to have formed the entrance to the rood loft. The south aisle has three bays, in the second of which is the south doorway. It is in three moulded arches with a pointed head. Although this doorway has been restored, it appears to date from the 14th Century. The porch, however, is modern.

The 15th century tower is in three stages, with an octagonal stair-turret at the southwest angle. Both tower and stair-turret have embattled parapets; the doorway at the base of the turret is modern.

Over the west door is a window of cinquefoiled lights, of which only the outer arch is old. On each side of this window is a cinquefoiled-canopied niche. Both niches are very much decayed, and the figures of saints that once occupied them have long since disappeared. The tower has pairs of two-light belfry windows, and a narrow single-light in the north and south walls of the second storey. On the east side of the tower can be seen the weather-mould of the 14th century roof, as well as the doorway leading to the space over its ceiling. This weather-mould or label was placed there to form a rain-resisting junction between the wall face and roof. It enables us to see the position of the older roof, which existed before the addition of the clerestory in the 15th century. In 1825 repairs were made to the masonry of the tower; two years later the steps were also repaired. The recently completed restoration of the church tower was a task of some magnitude. It was carried out at a cost of £1,100. Of this sum, £900 was raised by church-workers in the parish and by voluntary subscriptions.

The church clock now in use was presented by Mr. Walter Barrett in 1929, in memory of his father Mr Jerimiah Barrett, who was associated with the original clock for many years. This was of considerable age, there being several references to it in the old Churchwardens accounts. In 1780 the clock was placed lower on the tower; its former position can still be seen.

The old copper weathercock above the tower is rather unusual in design. It was bought and erected in 1750.

The sundial, formally on the south wall of the tower no longer exists. There is a reference to it being repainted in 1756.

The Bells

The tower contains six bells of different dates.

1st Bell


2nd Bell


3rd Bell


4th Bell


5th Bell

O.B. John dier made me 1580.

6th Bell


The third and fifth bells were re-cast be Taylor in1899. According to North “Church Bells of Bedfordshire” the fifth bell at Houghton Regis is the earliest dated bell in Bedfordshire. In 1552, it appears that the ring had been increased from four to five bells, but was again reduced to the original number. Reference is made to this in the Church Inventory of 1552.

“Item iiij belles and ye v bell wass not all payd for and therefore yt wass solld to pay yt.”

Considerable alterations were made in the belfry early in the 19th century. There were then five large bells, so the parishioners had either recovered the old fifth bell sold about 1552, or subsequently bought another. The old second bell was re-cast in 1811; to complete the present ring of six bells; two new trebles were added in 1815 and 1816. The ancient tenor bell is said to have been sold to Wavendon in Bucks. The stock of this bell is still to be seen in the ringing chamber. The fifth and sixth bells have had their cannons knocked off. Those of the new first second and fourth, are very short. The third is a powerful bell with very long cannons.

Customs of Bell Ringing at Houghton Regis.

The tenor was first rung up as a sermon bell and then ‘dropped in’ with the other bells when chiming commenced, and so gradually lowered, after which it was tolled until the commencement of the service.

Treble used to be rung at 7am and called ‘first peal’. Christmas peals were rung at midnight on Christmas Eve and at 7am and 4pm on Christmas Day; the Old year was rung out and the New Year in.  At Easter the bells were often rung instead of chimed. It was usual to ring the fifth bell for a vestry, town or parish meeting; also as a ‘fire bell’. The gleaning bell was rung at 7am and 7pm. The bells were rung on May 29th, to commemorate the restoration of King Charles II. On November 5th in remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot, the bells were raised and clashed (or fired) altogether at intervals, breaking into round after about six fires.


The Nave of Houghton Church is 59ft 6in long by 19ft 5 in wide. It dates from the early 14th century, and the arcades from this date remain. They are in five bays and spring from octagonal shafts with moulded capitals and bases. ‘There is a stone bracket on the eastern pier of the south arcade. The roof is 15th century work, but has been largely restored. It is plain Perpendicular, being of low pitch, with moulded timbers I five bays, having angels bearing shields on the intermediates. In three eastern bay are four ribbed panels ribbed panes ornamented with carved bosses. These form a ceiling over the rood. In the eastern corners are stone mouldings of what appear to be animals; all are very much worn. The clerestories are modern, each side having four square-headed windows of three cinquefoiled lights. ~There are also some very grotesque corbels.

In 1774. A gallery was built at the west end of the nave. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1842, but was removed completely during the work of the restoration carried out in 1856.

The stone pulpit was erected in 1879 (by public subscription) to replace the wooden one bought in 1842.This present pulpit originally stood near to the eastern pier of the north arcade. It was removed to its present position in 1892, when the panels were carved, and the inscription to a former vicar, the Rev William Faux Lovell, M. A.

At the chancel arch stands the 15th Century screen. It has four bays on either side of a wide central opening, the latter having, at one time, folding doors. The screen was formally much wider than at present, and stretched from pillar to pillar on the nave side of the chancel arch. During the rebuilding of the chancel in 1879, the screen underwent a considerable amount of repair. It was then found necessary to repair some of the woodwork.

The fine Norman font is of the late 12th Century; the bowl is circular and the base square, taking the form of a large inverted scalloped capital, it is probably the font of the original Church. Previous to the restoration of 1856, the font stood where the organ is now built. At this date a new Baptist was formed under the tower. We read that in 1821 a font ‘bason’ was bought for the sum of 12 shillings. The modern ewer now in use was presented by Mrs. E. Allen.

The tower is 15ft by 15ft 11ins

The beautiful tower arch dates from the 15th century, but it has been repaired. It is in two moulded orders separated by a casement with a label on the nave side. On the wall to the south of the arch, is a memorial to Asa Heap; he was choirmaster for many years. A brass to the memory of Jeremiah Barrett is to be seen on the south wall of the tower.

The stained glass was inserted into the west window as a memorial to the Rev, Hugh Blagg Smyth, M. A., with money bequeathed for that purpose by his daughter, Miss Cicely Smyth. It was designed by Underhill of Exeter (1891-2).

The North Aisle, 9ft 3in. wide, was largely restored in 1856 and 1867. In its eastern bay are two memorial windows to the members of the Smyth family. Of these, the east window has thee trefoiled lights and jamb shafts with moulded capitals and bases; the other is a square-headed window of three cinquefoiled lights. In the second and forth bays are windows similar to that in the east wall of the aisle.

A stone in the north wall of the eastern bay has an inscription to Joseph Fossey, of the City of London, who died in 1770. The vestry is in the west bay and is separated from the aisle by a wall. It is lighted by two single trefoiled lights. The 15th century roof is plain. On the northern wall of this aisle are memorial brasses to former Vicars, the Rev. William Faux Lovell, M. A (1883-1888), and the Rev William Wedge, B. A (1889-1912).

The South Aisle is 9ft 5ins wide. In its south wall is a 15th century tomb
under an ogee canopy. The tomb is panelled with quatrefoiled circles
charged with chevrons and three butterflies. Above the tomb is a horizontal embattled cornice with traceried cuspings to the spandrels. The effigy is reputed to be that of Sir John Sewell Kt., in hawberk and jupon on which his arms are emblazoned and a bacinet with a camail. The knight’s head rests on another effigy; at his feet is what appears to be a lion. The effigies are much mutilated. On the canopy are panels of quatrefoiled circles in the centre of which can be seen the Tudor Rose. Sir John Sewell was representative of a family whose manor is still to be seen at Sewell in this parish.

Above the tomb is a square headed window with a stained glass to the memory of John Armstrong, churchwarden, who died in 1860, during the year of office. The east window of three trefoiled lights set in a pointed head has corbel heads of king and queen. In the eastern bay of the aisle is a 14th century piscine with the cusps chamfered off. A chantry had been founded by William ?Dyve , and it was here that the chantry chapel was situated. This probably accounts for the slightly more ornamental roof in this eastern bay of the south aisle. There is also a square-headed window in the bay. The roof, like that of the nave and northern aisle, dates from the 15th century. The western bay of the aisle now serves as an organ chamber. It is divided from the aisle by an arch similar to those of the nave arcades. This chamber is lighted by a round cusped opening, often referred to as the ‘rose window’. On each side of the south doorway is a window exactly similar o that in the east wall of the north aisle. Inn the eastern bay is a mural tablet to Richard Arnott, who died in 1752; he was a servant to the Brandreth family for forty years.

The chancel, which is 41ft 6in by 19ft., was first built in the early 14th century. In 1879, it was completely rebuilt on its ancient foundations. The old windows, and much old material, were used in its re-construction. The 14th century arch remains. It is like the arches of the nave arcades, being in two waves –moulded orders springing from chamfered responds with moulded capitals and bases. Although the windows have modern tracery, the rear arches and jambs are 14th century work all that is except the western jambs of the north east and south east windows. These were widened in the 15th century. The east window has five cinquefoiled lights with tracery. In the north wall are two square-headed windows of two lights. The south wall has one window of three lights and two of two lights, the south west window having a transome in its lower lights . Under the north west window are two lockers for books. Both north and south doorways are modern.

There was formally a vestry at the north east of the chancel . We find reference to it in the old accounts.

Previously to the restoration of 1879, the north wall of the chancel was completely blank , the doorway and two windows having been blocked up at one time or another . This was also the case with the piscinarecess at the south-east of the chancel. There is a holy-water stoop east of the south doorway. To the north east or left of the Altar is an aumbry. Unfortunately, this is now hidden from view by oak panels; panels made from the old box pew once standing in the chancel. It belonged to the Brandreths , who were lay Rectors, and was replaced by the present stalls , on the ends of which can be seen the crest of the late H.C.G. Brandreth . The stalls were first used by the choir in 1913.

The beautiful oak beams formed part of the old chancel, and were utilised in building the modern roof. The Altar and Rerecord were erected as memorial to those men who died during the great war , 1914-1918. The old altar table was left in situ. Another and more ancient Altar table stands below the north east widow. It is now used as a credence table. Within the sanctuary there are two chairs, The one on the north side is of considerable age ; the other was presented by H.G.C.Brandreth . The processional Cross is a memorial to his widow who died in 1922. 


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