Hexham

Potted history

Hexham has just over 11,000 people and is one of the three major towns in Tynedale (along with Prudhoe and Haltwhistle). The town’s beginnings lie in the establishment of a monastery by Saint Wilfrid in 674. The crypt of the original monastery survives, and incorporates many stones taken from nearby Roman ruins. Hexham Abbey dates mainly from the 11th century, but was significantly rebuilt in Victorian times. Other notable buildings in the town include the Moot Hall, the covered market, and the Old Gaol.

Like Corbridge and many other towns in the North of England, Hexham had its nose bloodied on many occasions during the border wars with the Scots. Amongst those to administer them was William Wallace, who burnt the town in 1297, though the abbey survived largely intact. Not to be outdone Robert the Bruce demanded (and got) a ransom of £2,000 some 15 years later, in 1312, in exchange for not burning it down. During the Wars of the Roses Hexham was the scene of battle in 1464. The Duke of Somerset, who commanded the Lancastrians, was defeated and beheaded in the Market Place. Later the town played its part in the 1715 Jacobite uprising, when James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentside, raised the standard on behalf of the Stuarts. For his pains he was beheaded after the battle of Preston.

Places of interest

Tourist Information Centre, Wentworth Car Park, Hexham NE46 1QE. 01434 652220. www.ukinformationcentre.com (then type
in Hexham). Further information: www.hadrians-wall.org. 01434 322002.

Hexham Abbey: the current Early English Gothic church largely dates from c.1170–1250. The choir, north and south transepts and the cloisters, where canons studied and meditated, date from this period. The east end was rebuilt in 1860. The Abbey stands at the west end of the market place, which is home to the Shambles, a Grade II* covered market built in 1766 by Sir Walter Blackett.

Moot Hall: a 15th century building in the east of the market place, is Grade I listed but not open to the public as it is home of the museum department of Tynedale District Council! Old Gaol: one of the first purpose built prisons in England, it was constructed in 1330 and is a Grade I listed Scheduled Monument. Commissioned by the Archbishop of York (clerics were also governors and warriors in these times). There is now a museum.

Old Gaol: one of the first purpose built prisons in England, it was constructed in 1330 and is a Grade I listed Scheduled Monument.