Historic Areas and Notable Buildings
Hexham Cinemas (including the Forum)
See a 15 minute presentation on the history of cinema in Hexham by local historian Mark Benjamin, shown on Facebook to replace a talk cancelled by the onset of Coronavirus.
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.
Hexham House of Correction
The Hexham House of Correction opened in 1784 in a house on Chareway Lane off what is now Tyne Green Road (and used to be called Burn Lane). Houses of Correction were used for petty criminals whose main crime was being poor – beggars, vagrants, petty thieves, prostitutes – and were thought to be better than Gaols; a half-way house between freedom and full Gaol.
Members of HLHS can read more about the Hexham House of Correction in the document by Joan McCabe in the Members Library. According to that document, the House was closed to inmates in the 1860s, sold in the 1870s, and rented out as 4 houses in the 1950s.
In 1932/33 the Burn Lane Garage (United Automobile Services Ltd. bus depot) was opened adjacent to the House. Circa 1962 United decided to enlarge their workshop facilities. Suffice to say that when United’s ground work contractors had finished their demolition work, what was left of the House of Correction was a half-way house in more ways than one! One gent, who lived in Chareway beside the depot, can remember the incident vividly. Billy, a former United cleaner, recounts management embarrassment. The conservation team at Northumberland County Council have provided a potted history of the ancient building which, if nothing else, just states that there had been a demolition.
What remains of the original House is what was the Prisoner’s Day Room, with sleeping cells above, and is now only open for specially arranged visits.
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