Historic Areas and Notable Buildings
Hexham is dominated by Hexham Abbey. Originally the church of Hexham Priory, founded by Bishop Wilfrid in 674 A.D. The current church largely dates from c.1170–1250, in the Early English Gothic style of architecture. 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 and the nave in 1904. The watercolour is from the 19th C showing the poor state of the Abbey and some of the rebuilding work taking place.
There is also a catalogue of items in the Abbey. Amongst many other things this includes transcribed memorial inscriptions which are very often enquired about for family history research. Members of the HLHS can also find some documents about the Abbey’s memorials in the Members Library Section.
At the east end of the market place stands the Moot Hall, a C15 gatehouse that was part of the defences of the town. The Moot Hall is a Grade I listed building, and was used as a courthouse until 1838. The Moot Hall now houses offices of the Museums Department, though not open to the public any relevant enquiries can be made on the first floor. The ground floor is an art gallery open to hire.
The Old Gaol
The Old Gaol, behind the Moot Hall on Hallgates, was one of the first purpose built jails in England. It was built between 1330-3 and is a Grade I listed Scheduled Monument. It was ordered to be built by the Archbishop of York. The building is now home to the Old Gaol museum, informing visitors about the how the prisoners were kept in the time of the Border Reivers and how they were punished. There is also information concerning the local families of time such as the Charltons and Fenwicks, many of which still have descendants living in the area. The museum also contains the Border Library, a reference collection covering the history of western Northumberland with particular strengths in the reiver families and folk music of the area.
The Queen’s Hall
Originally built in 1866 as a Corn Exchange and Town Hall, in its time, the hall has contained banks, ballrooms and cinemas but is now home to the Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham Library and a cafe. Further information about the history of the building can be found in HH26