Our next trip from Carlisle was a road trip to Hexham, and then further up the road to visit Prudhoe Castle…
Status: Northumberland, Town, England
Eating & Sleeping: Greggs
Attractions: Hexham Abbey, Bus Station, Tourist Information, Old Gaol, Moot Hall, Queens Hall, Prudhoe Castle, Hexham Parks, Trinity Church, George Benson statue etc
The old Gaol (jail house) is on the way up to the Abbey from where we parked at the bottom of the hill next to the Tourist Information Office. We walked through the arch and past the old stocks that sit outside, and the building contains galleries and a museum. It is one of the oldest buildings in the town after the Abbey, having been built between 1330 and 1333, and for over 500 years was used as a prison.
You can explore the whole building with a glass lift taking you through the different floors, and down to the dungeons.
The main feature of the town is Hexham Abbey, and it is one of the major tourist attractions for the county. The main centre of the town is up a hill in the middle of the town, and the Abbey is visible from the train line due its high position.
There have been various churches on the site but the current building was built between 1170 and 1250, with the east end being rebuilt in 1860. An extra chapel was added in 1996, and there is a gift shop around the front. Although the building was originally an abbey, after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537 it has been the parish church for the town.
The abbey itself is free to visit and regular services are held here. There is lots to explore inside and its beautifully finished and detailed, with vast cavernous interior rooms and stained glass windows that let the sun shine through creating different colours on the walls and floors. We had a good look round inside and there was plenty to see. Aside from Paisley Abbey in Scotland it is the only complete abbey we have seen on our travels as the rest such as Jedburgh, Melrose and Kelso abbey’s are all ruins.
Queen’s hall is just down from the Abbey, and hosts films, pantomimes and other performances all year round. Its architecture is typical of Hexham and other towns in the area, similar to that of Huddersfield, and is my favourite type of old building. It is a Victoria Building and became an arts centre in 1983, before being given to a charitable organisation in 2001 to continue its functions.
Across from the hall is a large open space which is made up for four parks together, with the main one running down the side of the road and containing a band stand, a War Memorial and an arch. The other parks are joined to it, and the Sele is the largest of these and sat behind the main park.
At the far end of the main street in the town is the Trinity Methodist Church, with a statue of George Elliot Benson (1861 – 1901) in the road in front of it. He served with distinction in various conflicts including in Africa. He was born in Allerwash which is a small hamlet a few miles away from Hexham.
We parked up at Prudhoe Castle, in the nearby town of Prudhoe which is only 25 minutes away from Hexham by car. Outside the castle you can see the impressive pond, but it is not a moat however as it is only at the front of the building. It is an extensive complex which is open to the public, so we went in to have a look round. It is owned by English Heritage so there is an admission charge, but it is definitely worth having a look round.
You can also do a full walk around the outside of the castle, and gaze up at the towering castle walls.
The castle itself is very old, and dates back to at least the 11th century. It has passed between various owners (including the Umfravilles and the Percies) and each have added their own touch to the castle, built new sections or extended old ones. It is visible from the Carlisle – Newcastle train line, sat up on a hill overlooking the area, and we spotted it when we got the train over to North and South Shields earlier in the year, which I will post about next time.
Hexham and the surrounding area is a lovely place to visit and there are various old castles in the area, as well as Hexham itself being a very impressive Town with lovely old buildings. It is quite accessible with there being a station on the Carlisle – Newcastle train line, and the main A69 road also from Carlisle – Newcastle passing next to the town.
If you are ever up in Northumberland then I urge you to visit the area and the nearby Northumberland National Park.