Hexham is a picturesque little market town, nestled on the banks of the Tyne. Located just a few miles from Hadrian's Wall, it is ideal base for exploring the wall and the local Northumberland countryside.
There has been a market at Hexham since 1766, when the local farmers drove their sheep and cattle across the Tyne to the market place, in front of the Abbey. Behind the market place stands the massive 14th-century 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.
The town centre, which is dominated by its magnificent Abbey, contains many charming 16th and 17th century houses. There are several quaint winding cobbled streets behind the market place, full of oldie worldly shops and bespoke boutiques. 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.
Wentworth Car Park, Wentworth Place, Hexham - Tel: 01434 652220
Originally the gatehouse for a 12th century 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 is used to showcase work from 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, 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 century. The museum is readily accessible and provides several hands-on exhibits for children. Special activities are provided every Saturday.
The Border History Library is also located in the gaol, where visitors (by appointment), can research their family history.
Hidden behind the 19th century facade is a 12th-century church; a masterpiece of Early English Gothic architecture. A church was built on the site of Hexham Abbey 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 century. 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 church - 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.