The Abbey, the Jail and the Chocolate Shop – The highlights of Hexham

“HEXHAM! You spent a whole day in Hexham?” exclaimed our bed and breakfast host in an incredulous tone. I suppose when you live near somewhere, you don’t always appreciate it as visitors do. We did spend a whole day in Hexham, AND we enjoyed it!

We made first for the tourist information centre where we obtained a free street map of this Northumbrian town. I also took the opportunity to purchase some delicious locally produced honey, something I often do when visiting just about anywhere.

From the tic, we walked up a hill and through an old town gate into the market square.

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Our first stop was Hexham Abbey. Unlike a lot of grand religious buildings, this was free to enter and had a very interesting interactive museum attached called the Big Story, which educated us on the abbey, the town and the local area. F had fun with building blocks which demonstrated how the abbey arches could be built. We also learned that there has been an abbey on this sight for more than 1300 years and that Hexham was among the first places to “Read the Riot Act”. So as well as being an early centre of Christianity, it also has a history of lawlessness, as we were to find out later. First though, we enjoyed lunch in the Abbey Refectory before the obligatory look around the gift shop.

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The Abbey Gardens form a lovely public park with play equipment for children. This provided an ideal opportunity to allow F to let off steam after lunch.

In the afternoon, we visited England’s first purpose built jail, erected in 1330. In those days, criminals were usually imprisoned in castle dungeons, but there were just too many of them in this part of the world. There were many feuding families and clans in this border county close to Scotland. Legal authority was largely ignored as a continuous cycle of revenge attacks happened. Extra law enforcement measures, including the new jail, were necessary to restore order. We tried out the stocks and learned much about the feuds that took place in the area, often resulting in major thefts and mass murders. There were opportunities to dress up in historic costumes and drawing activities for young children. The jail was operational right up until the 1820s, almost 500 years!

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We later explored the attractive town, stopping for coffee and visiting a delightful artisan chocolate shop. Well those are the bits I can remember. S and F looked around far more shops that have long been erased from my memory! The end of the day came all too soon. It was time to head back to our bed and breakfast in Newbrough and get ready for our evening meal in the pub across the road.

Factfile:

Location

Hexham is in Northumberland, England, UK, 22 miles west of Newcastle

Transport

The town is just off the A69 trunk road. The nearest airport is Newcastle, from where there are regular train services

Accommodation and food

We stayed at Westfields B & B and ate at the Red Lion in Newbrough (5 miles). For more accommodation options, click here

Information

For more information, click the links Hexham Abbey, Hexham Old Jail and Hexham

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