Hexham Markets, Fairs and Auction Marts
This chronology was created by Susan Reed, as part of her A-level project in 1994. An exhibition of her work was later displayed in Hexham Library. Some of her text below is now out-of-date, the mart having moved out of town shortly after this project was completed. Further information about the development of the market can be found in Hexham Historian 10.
Preamble: Old markets and fairs in Hexham
1239 Hexham: A Market Town of importance, granted a weekly market on a Monday and St Luke’s Fair held on two days 17/18th October. The grant was made by Henry III. The granting of markets was the privilege of the King who determined the number of fairs and markets that might be held and the days of the week they took place.
1319 The Archbishop of York, who controlled Hexham, asked Edward II to grant his permission to hold two fairs, one for 5 days in July, and one for 6 days at the time of the feast of the apostles, James and Jude, in October.
1662 Sir William Fenwick, Lord of the Manor, was given permission by Charles II to alter the market day to Tuesday and also to hold on the same day a cattle market every fortnight in the winter. The fairs were held in Hencotes and Priestpopple, not in the Market Place. Later, fairs were held on Tyne Green, and acquired an unsavoury reputation, hence the local saying, “The Tyne Green; that’s ten miles ayont hell.”
1741 A new fair sprung up as more and more cattle were about.
1826 Col. Beaumont held a fair in a field, “Fairfield” which is now the location of the Police Station. Later, Stagshaw Fair attracted some 100,000 sheep, mostly from Scotland. Cattle, horses and swine were also sold; this fair attained a fame unequalled by any other fair in the country.
1850 Stock started to go by rail. Prior to this all the cattle was walked to market, often for many miles by two or three men from as far away as Stirling and Brigg in Lincolnshire.
1870 Auction marts started to arrive on the scene with two of the first in this area being at Rothbury and Hawick. The first mart in Hexham was the one by the crossing to Tyne Green and the Golf House. Henry Bell used it for many years until West Cumberland Farmers bought the site and the ring was taken down. Another mart was on the site of the old Central Methodist Church opposite Benson’s monument.
Another auction mart was the Tynedale, run by Thomas Blandford from Corbridge. This was to the east of what is now Maiden’s Walk.
1879 W & T T Iveson purchased a controlling interest in William Cook & Co. (The first Iveson on record hailed from Giggleswick and fought at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.) Beginning of the Hexham Auction Mart.
1880 Store cattle from Hexham in great demand.
1885 New mart land purchased in Wanless Lane from Wm Alexander, provision merchant.
1888 Wm Cook & Co moved to its present mart site where the mart is today behind the bus station and on Wanless Lane and Maiden’s Walk.
1901 William Cook died and the Hexham Auction Mart was formed from the businesses of W & T T Iveson and Wm Cook & Co.
1922 Expansion. New wooden sale rings built, still in everyday use.
1935 No 3 sales ring built to cater for increased flow of store cattle.
1942 No 4 ring built to cater for Tuberculin-tested cattle which had to be separated from the non-tested.
1951/2 Byers were built on Wanless Lane, by Williamson of Haugh Lane.
1959 Purchase of Rothbury Auction Mart which, like Bellingham, had seasonal sales; along with Hexham all traded as Hexham & Northern Marts.
1971 Decimalisation. The weighbridge changed from pounds to kilos.
1972 Company purchased Tynedale Auction Mart. They then had six rings and penning covering seven acres. They now have five sale rings and an area of circa 6.5 acres.
1992 Planning application was granted by Tynedale District Council for the relocation of the Mart and associated activities, together with ancilliary agro-chemical companies on land at Tyne Green, Hexham. New roundabout to be built at the end of Tyne Green Road, parking for 350 cars and 93 lorries.
1994 Building commenced.
Hexham Mart reputed to be one of the ten top marts in the UK.
Approximate annual figures  70,000 cattle, 140,000 sheep. If Bellingham and Rothbury included, 76,000 cattle and 232,000 sheep. In 1950 about 400 fat sheep were sold at a weekly fatstock sale, recently 6000 sheep were sold in a day. Many of the sheep go for export to Germany, France, Holland and Italy.
Mart employs around 65 people, mainly part time.
The Mart attracts something like 500 farmers. These are drawn from Berwick to Jedburgh in the north, Cockermouth and Stranraer to the west, and southwards to the North Riding of Yorkshire. Buyers come from all parts of Great Britain.
Most of the stock comes from Northumberland, north Durham, the Carlisle area and southern Scotland.
Hexham noted for the Hexham Blue Faced Leicester Sheep.
About 180 acres of land in Hexham is used for accommodation of stock before and after sales. There is a small farm of 45 acres at Intake to the south of the reservoir, 36 acres next to Egger at Anick, 12 acres at Craneshaugh, 21 acres between Tyne Green and the railway, with the rest of the land rented from Lord Allendale, Beaufront Estate and St Camillus Hospital.
Reasons for relocating the Mart
There was an indication that the Mart was losing business in fat cattle and store sheep to Carlisle and Longtown. There is clear evidence that livestock markets relocated to greenfield sites are able to increase the volume of business transacted. They are not only able to provide well-designed facilities, but time is saved by having adequate loading docks, parking areas, etc., and facilities where they can conduct other agriculturally-related businesses.
Animal welfare is improved by well planned layouts and specialised sorting areas. The overall effect of relocation is therefore an uplift in the volume of stock, which encourages additional buyers, which helps to increase competition and therefore price. The impact on the environment is lessened by removing traffic congestion from the town centre, and with dealing efficiently with animal effluent on site.
If Hexham is to survive as a major centre for the sale of livestock, relocation is essential.
There was a warm welcome from Tynedale Council’s planning committee for the scheme by the North Eastern Co-Op to build a new £8M supermarket on the existing Hexham Auction Mart site which is linked to the plans of re-locating to Tyne Mills. The Co-Op scheme incorporates a major food store and cafe, parking for nearly 400 cars and a new bus station.