National Gazetteer (1868) - Hexham


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"HEXHAM, a parish, post, and market town in the S. division of Tynedale ward, county Northumberland, 40 miles E. of Carlisle, 20 W. of Newcastle, and 283 N.N.W. of London. It is a station on the Carlisle and Newcastle railway. There is also a branch line of the Border Counties railway, extending 26 miles up the valley of the North Tyne to the Belling, where it joins the Edinburgh and Hawick railway. This extensive parish is situated near the southern bank of the river Tyne, which is crossed about half a mile distant from Hexham by a stone bridge spanned by nine arches, with two additional ones in reserve on the S. side in case of flood. A suspension bridge was also constructed in 1826 over the South Tyne, near the western ferry, at an expense of £5,000; and a bridge of two arches has been recently erected at Gilligate, where the Cowgarth and Cockshaw burns unite their streams. Hexham contains the townships of High Quarter, Lower Quarter, Middle Quarter, West Quarter, and Hexham. It was called Halgustald and Hextoldesham by the Saxons, from the neighbouring streams Halgut and Hextol, from the latter of which its present name is derived. It was made the seat of a bishopric in 674 by St. Wilfrid, and being united to Lindisfarne in 883, eventually became a part of the see of Durham. Tilferth, the last bishop, was expelled from his bishopric in 821 by the Danes, who, about fifty years afterwards, again plundered the town and destroyed the monastery of Hexham, which, according to Richard of Hexham, was the most beautiful and magnificent ecclesiastical edifice at that time in England. In addition to the Abbey church there are said to have formerly been two parish churches-viz: St. Peter's and St. Mary's; of the latter considerable remains were brought to light a few years ago, on the rebuilding of some houses. The priory was refounded in 1113 by Archbishop Thomas of York, for Augustine canons, and Hexham, together with Holme, was appropriated to the endowment of a prebendal stall in the cathedral of York. The town and monastery were several times plundered by the Scots under David I. and David II., on one of which occasions the latter monarch was taken prisoner by Sir John Copeland, then sheriff of Northumberland, at the battle of Nevill's Cross. In 1463 the decisive battle of Hexham was fought on the plains near the town between the Yorkists and Lancastrians. In the reign of Henry VIII., the last Prior of Hexham, having been involved in the insurrection called the Pilgrimage of Grace, was hanged at the gate of the monastery. In the reign of Elizabeth, Hexhamshire was transferred to the crown by the Archbishop of York in exchange for other lands, and was then annexed to the county of Northumberland, having previously possessed all the rights and privileges of a county palatine, which, with the jura regalia, had been confirmed by Edward I. In 1761 a fearful riot took place here, which was not quelled until 48 persons had been killed and 300 wounded. The Vale of the Tyne, in which Hexham is situated, is diversified with well cultivated fields, shrubberies, and pleasure grounds, and is remarkable for producing earlier crops than the surrounding district. A I considerable portion of the land belongs to the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital. The greater part of the inhabitants reside in the town, and are chiefly engaged in the manufactures of stuffs, shoes, bats, leather, and gloves-which last was once the staple trade, but has somewhat declined of late years. There are besides a large iron and brass foundry, and two breweries. The town of Hexham, not being incorporated, is governed by the local magistrates and the rural police. It is a polling-place for the S. division of the county. Petty sessions are held in the court-house the first Tuesday in every month for the Hexham division of Tyndale ward. County courts are held about the middle of each month at the court-house, and the board of guardians meet every alternate Tuesday. Quarter sessions are held at midsummer. Courts baron for minor debts, copyhold claims, &c., are held quarterly. The town is lighted with gas, partially paved, and well supplied with water conveyed from a considerable distance into two reservoirs. Under direction of the Board of Health, very extensive drainage and water supply for the town are at present being constructed at great expense. A new townhall and covered corn-market are about to be erected to the S.W. of the market-place, and a new street adjoining them is in contemplation. The town comprises several narrow and irregularly built streets-Battle Hill, Hencotes, and Priest Popple forming the principal thoroughfares. The market-place, which is spacious, is situated near the centre of the town. It contains three branch banks, a savings-bank, mechanics' institution, dispensary, and a neat but commodious market-house, with a piazza. In the vicinity of the town are extensive market-gardens, yielding considerable quantities of fruit and vegetables, also some large nursery gardens. The living is a perpetual curacy* in the diocese of Durham, and has lately been increased in value by a gift of tithes from the patronage and a grant from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, making its value near £200. The church, which is dedicated to St. Andrew, is a spacious cruciform structure, with a tower rising from the intersection to the height of 100 feet. It is part of the conventual church of the monastery, built on the site of St. Wilfred's Cathedral, and partially destroyed by the Scots in 1296. The choir is separated from the transepts by a richly-carved screen, which is ornamented in the upper part with an allegorical painting of the Dance of Death. The church also contains a gallery of oak, beautifully carved, beneath which are three stalls highly enriched with tabernacle work; an oratory, or shrine, exquisitely ornamented with foliated arches, tracery, and figures, supposed to have been built by Prior Richard of Hexham; a "frid stool," or sanctuary seat for criminals; a recumbent figure on an altar-tomb, supposed to be that of Prior Richard, besides numerous other monuments. In the town is a Scotch church, a Roman Catholic chapel, and several places of worship belonging to the Independents, Wesleyans, and Dissenting bodies. There is also a lectureship here, in the patronage of the Mercers' Company, London. John of Hexham, a monkish historian; Bate, a learned friar; Hewson, the anatomist; and Richardson, the poet, were natives of this place. The parochial charities produce about £100 16s. 3d., a portion of which goes to the apprenticing of poor boys. Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School is situated at Bank Head, and is regulated by a decree of the High Court of Chancery, passed in 1827. It is endowed with an annuity of £25, and with a residence for the master. It is for the instruction of all boys born in this parish, at a fixed charge of 7s. 6d. per quarter. The subscription school, formerly held in a building at Skinnersburn, has been removed to a range of buildings on the Seal, at the W. side of the town. This is an extensive open space of ground, intersected by public walks affording a view of the surrounding scenery. Wentworth Blackett Beaumont, Esq., is lord of the manor and principal landowner. Market day is Tuesday, and a cattle mart is held on alternate Tuesdays from October to Christmas. Fairs are held on the 6th August for cattle, lambs, &c., and on the 9th November for horses, cattle, &c."

"DALTON, a hamlet in the parish of Hexham, in the S. division of Tynedale ward, in the county of Northumberland, 5 miles S.W. of Hexham."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]