Hexham is a picturesque little market town that nestles just above the banks of the Tyne. Located only a few miles from Hadrian's Wall, it is ideal base for exploring the wall and the local Northumberland countryside.
Hexham Abbey © Travel About Britain
The town centre, which is dominated by its magnificent Abbey, contains many charming 16th and 17th century houses.
There has been a market at Hexham since 1766, when the local farmers drove their sheep and cattle across the Tyne to the market square, in front of the Abbey. Behind the market stands the massive 14th-c gatehouse and tower of the Moot Hall, once used as the town's meeting place and courthouse. Just behind the Moot Hall is the Old Gaol, one of the oldest purpose built prison buildings in Britain.
There are several quaint winding cobbled streets leading off from the market area, full of oldie worldly shops and bespoke outlets. If you are looking for a place to eat or stay you won't be disappointed as the town hosts many top quality restaurants, hotels and guest houses. Just below the town lies the delightful Tyne Green Country Park, that runs along the banks of the River Tyne - a perfect retreat for golfers, fishermen, rowers, walkers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Tourist Information Centre:
|Wentworth Car Park, Wentworth Place, Hexham - Tel: 01434 652220|
Hexham Gatehouse and Market Place © Travel About Britain
Originally the gatehouse for a 12th-c castle, it was later converted into the town meeting place (or Moot Hall). It once served as a Bishop's Palace and later used as a courthouse for the county. Today the hall houses an art gallery that showcases work for local artists and craftspeople.
This large square imposing stone keep was built in 1330 by order of William Melton (Archbishop of York). The prison was used to hold prisoners awaiting trial at the courthouse, up until the early 1800s.
The gaol (pronounced 'jail') now houses a modern local history museum, with exhibits on crime and punishment, treatment and conditions for prisoners in medieval times. Also information local archaeology, costumes, textiles, social history, weapons, armour and other war memorabilia. Of particular interest are displays and a multimedia presentation concerning the ferocious Border Reiver raiders of the 13th-c. The museum is readily accessible and provides many hands-on exhibits for children.
The Border History Library is also located in the gaol, where visitors (by appointment), can research their family history.
Hidden behind the 19th-c facade of Hexham Abbey is a much older Norman church, a masterpiece of Early English Gothic architecture. A place of worship was originally built on the site by St Wilfrid in 674, using Roman masonry from nearby Corstopitum. The church became a priory and monastery and was granted abbey status around the 11th-c. The church suffered much destruction at the hands of Scottish raiders and was rebuilt in 1908. A fine Anglo-Saxon crypt is all that remains of the original building - possibly one the best examples still in existence. The 'Frith Stool', once used to crown the Kings of Northumbria, still stands in the abbey's chancel.
The Abbey grounds have been formed into beautifully landscaped park, with pleasing floral displays. The focal point of the park is a delightfully restored Victorian bandstand, used for a programme of music and festival entertainment during the summer months.