Houghton-le-Spring is a town that is nowadays found in the county of Tyne and Wear, North East England that has its recorded origins in Norman times. It is situated almost equi-distant between the Cathedral-City of Durham 7 miles (15km) to the south-west and the City of Sunderland about 6 miles (13 km) to the north-east. The town of Seaham and the North Sea lie about 5 miles (9km) directly to the east. The towns of Newbottle, Fencehouses and Hetton-le-Hole and lie nearby.
The A690 road from Durham to Sunderland meets the A182 in Houghton at an unusual interchange. Heading northeast, slip roads leave the A690, heading up to a roundabout, while the A690 climbs and travels above a second roundabout, before the entry slip joins the A690 itself.
An ancient document dated 1220 describes the town as 'Houghton Sprynges'. The name Houghton comes from the Old English hoh meaning hill and tun meaning settlement.
In 1311 the village was owned by Albreda, widow of Lord Henry Spring, hence the addition of 'le spring'. The above explanation of the addition of ‘le Spring’ is debatable and there are alternatives. One opinion is that it is derived from the Le Spring family, Lords of Houghton in ancient times. Another explanation, which is backed up by a “Regester Booke belonginge to the Paryshe of Houghton in the Springe” from 1598, is based around the medicinal springs which flow from the surrounding limestone rocks. This latter explanation ties in with the Roman names in the area in which "le" is taken to be "in the" as in Chester-le-Street, Witton-le-Wear, Dalton-le-Dale, Hetton-le-Hole.. Credence is added to this consideration by the area of the town formerly known as the Lake and the stream/spring that nowadays still runs through the centre of the town, although this has long since been directed to run through a culvert.
The parish church of St Michael and All Angels dates back to Norman times and contains the tomb of Bernard Gilpin, known as 'the Apostle of the North'. Gilpin was Archdeacon of Durham and in 1557 became the rector at Houghton-le-Spring, which at that time was one of the largest parishes in England.
Houghton Feast is an ancient festival held every October in the town. It has its origins in the 1100s as the dedication festival to the Parish Church of St Michael & All Angels. Nowadays the festival lasts ten days and typically features a fairground, carnival, fireworks and ox roasting event, in commemoration of Rector Bernard Gilpin's feeding of the poor. It was expanded in the 1500s by Gilpin and furthermore in the late 1700s when it became connected with horse racing. The 1800s saw the introduction of steam-powered rides and all the fun of the fair, however events were downscaled as a result of World War II. Rector Noel Gwilliam was responsible for initiating the Feast format as we know it today and encouraging an emphasis on the religious aspects. 2005 marked the 50th anniversary since former ward councillor John Mawston became involved with Houghton Feast.
In more recent times Houghton was an active coal-mining town.
Speedway racing was staged at the racecourse. Contemporary newspaper reports indicate the sport was staged in 1930 but it may have operated at other times. Horse racing last featured at the site in 1938 owing to the outbreak of World War II the following year, and was replaced with Greyhound racing.