From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Hexham Abbey

54°58'17.1"N 2°06'09.5"W
NY 9352864095

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Hexham Abbey is a Grade I listed parish church, dedicated to St Andrew, located in the town of Hexham, Northumberland.

Etheldreda, Queen of Northumbria made a grant of land of Hexhamshire to St Wilfrid, Bishop of York in 674 to build a Benedictine monastery which was then constructed almost entirely of material salvaged from nearby Roman ruins.

In the year 875, the abbey was plundered and then burnt to the ground by the Dane, Halfdene (Halfdan) Ragnarsson. In the 1050's, Eilaf was instructed to rebuild Hexham Church, which then lay in utter ruin. His son Eilaf II completed the work, probably building in the Norman style.

Wilfrid's abbey was replaced by an Augustinian priory, extensive remodelling was carried out between 1170 to 1250, built in an Early English style, the choir, north and south transepts and the cloisters, where canons studied and meditated, certainly date from this period. The priory flourished until its dissolution under Henry VIII in 1537. The Chancel and Transepts survived because they were needed by the Parish for a new church, which became known as the Hexham Parish Church, replacing St Mary’s Church, south of the Market Place.

In 1725, the Saxon crypt, was discovered by workmen digging foundations for a buttress to support the west side of the Tower. The Abbey’s bells are re-cast in 1742, the six old bells becoming eight new ones. In 1821, a tower clock is installed, with four faces, each with a diameter of eight feet, but in 1828, part of the east wing collapses. It was re-built the following year by Newcastle architect John Dobson.

In 1833, during a grave digging in the Campey Hill area close to the north transept, a hoard of approximately 8000 stycas were discovered. The Hexham Hoard as it became known, was hidden around 850. It was composed of coins from the reigns of Eanred, Aethelred II and Redwulf, as well as coins of two archbishops Eanbald and Wigmund.

The tombstone of Flavinus, a Roman cavalry officer who died aged 25 in the first century, is one of the most significant Roman finds in Britain. It is now located in front of a blocked doorway at the foot of the Night Stair. The slab is thought to have once stood near the fort of Coria near Corbridge and was brought here as a building stone in the 12th century. The slab was laid face-upward in the foundations of the cloister and was rediscovered in 1881.

The Abbey was largely rebuilt during the incumbency of Canon Edwin Sidney Savage, from 1898 to 1919, this huge project involved re-building the nave, whose walls incorporate some of the earlier church, and the restoration of the choir. The nave was re-consecrated on 8 August 1908. Henry Thomas Bosdet was commissioned by the Abbey to create four new stained glass windows. The east window was the first project and was installed about 1907. Two smaller windows followed and the large west window was installed in 1918.

The church was Grade I listed in 1951. An additional chapel was created in 1996, at the east end of the north choir aisle. In 2014 the Abbey regained ownership of its former monastic buildings, which had been used as Hexham magistrates' court, and subsequently developed them into a permanent exhibition and visitor centre, telling the story of the Abbey's history.