HEXHAM – Numerous saints are associated with Hexham including Saints Acca, Alcmund, Andrew, Eata, Frithebert, John of Beverley, Tilbert, and Wilfred. Hexham is an attractive market town serving an extensive rural area in southwest Northumberland. Its most important building is its abbey church, founded by St Wilfrid some 1,300 years ago.
You can still see the Anglo-Saxon crypt of the original church, built out of stones taken from the Roman camp at Corbridge. It was said to have been one of the most magnificent churches north of the Alps.
Both Saint Wilfrid (c633-709) and Saint Acca, a notable scholar praised by St Bede, were bishops of Hexham. St Wilfrid was one of the most important men of the old English church; St Acca (d740) was buried in the cathedral near the east wall; his relics were translated to Durham in the 11th-century. St Alcmund was the 7th bishop, and ruled from 767-81. In 1154 the relics of all the saint of Hexham were collected into a single shrine, but in 1296 were scattered by the Scots.
The present church is still one of the loveliest in Europe; it was begun in the 12th century and added to and improved right up to the present day. Near the High Altar stands the Frith Stool, once used as the coronation seat for the Kings of Northumbria. In medieval days Hexham was triumuirate, that is to say there were the ecclesiastics, the military and government, and the people – all centred round the market place. These divisions are apparent to this day.
To the west, the monastic building; to the east, the government typified by the old 15th-century Moot Hall or Council Chamber in the market place. The rising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace deeply affected Hexham and led to the execution of its last prior at the gate of the priory. Some of the streets in Hexham have fascinating names like St Mary’s Chare and Priest’s Popple. Places to visit in Hexham include the Middle March Centre for Border History, Moothall Gallery The local Tourist Information Centre has leaflets describing a walking tour of the town.