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Hexham Abbey

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Hexham Abbey

Hexham Abbey
East end of Hexham Abbey
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Previous denomination Roman Catholic
Churchmanship Broad Church
Parish Hexham
Diocese Newcastle
Province York
Rector Dagmar Winter
Priest(s) Alan Currie
Minister(s) Michelle Dalliston (interim)
Director of music Marcus Wibberley
Organist(s) Michael Haynes (from September 2015)
Inside Hexham Abbey

Hexham Abbey is a place of Christian worship dedicated to St Andrew and located in the town of Hexham, Northumberland, in northeast England. Since the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537, the Abbey has been the parish church of Hexham.


  • History 1
    • Stained glass 1.1
    • Crypt 1.2
  • Bishopric of Hexham 2
    • Bishops 2.1
  • Rectors 3
  • Notable burials 4
  • Organ 5
    • Organists 5.1
    • Assistant organists 5.2
  • Choirs 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


There has been a church on the site for over 1300 years since Etheldreda, Queen of Northumbria made a grant of lands to Wilfrid, Bishop of York c.674. Of Wilfrid's Benedictine abbey, which was constructed almost entirely of material salvaged from nearby Roman ruins, the Saxon crypt still remains; as does a frith stool, a 7th/8th century cathedra or throne.[1] For a little while around that time it was the seat of a bishopric.

In the year 875 Halfdene (Halfdan Ragnarsson) the Dane ravaged the whole of Tyneside and Hexham Church was plundered and burnt to the ground.[2]

About 1050 one Eilaf was put in charge of Hexham, although as treasurer of Durham, he probably never came there. 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.[2]

In Norman times Wilfrid's abbey was replaced by an Augustinian priory. The current church largely dates from that period (c.1170–1250), in the Early English style of architecture. The choir, north and south transepts and the cloisters, where canons studied and meditated, date from this period.

The east end was rebuilt in 1860. The Abbey was largely rebuilt during the incumbency of Canon Edwin Sidney Savage who came to Hexham in 1898 and remained until 1919. This mammoth 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.

In 1996 an additional chapel was created at the east end of the north choir aisle. Named St Wilfrid's Chapel, it offers a place for prayer or quiet reflection.

Stained glass

Four of the stained glass windows in the Abbey are the work of Jersey-born stained glass artist Henry Thomas Bosdet who was commissioned by the Abbey. 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.[3]


The crypt is a plain structure of four chambers. Here were exhibited the relics which were a feature of Wilfred's church. It consists of a chapel with an ante-chapel at the west end, two side passages with enlarged vestibules and three stairways. The chapel and ante-chapel are barrel-vaulted. All the stones used are of Roman workmanship and many are carved or with inscriptions.[2] One inscription on a slab, partially erased, is:

IMP •CAES •L •SEP • • •
VS • • • • • • • • •
 • • • •HORTE • • •
FECERVNT SVB • • • • •

Translated it means The Emperor Lucius Septimus Severus Pius Pertinax and his sons the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antonius Pius Augustus and Publius Geta Caesar the cohorts and detachments made this under the command of ….. The words erased are of great interest. After the Emperor Geta was murdered by his brother Caracalla, an edict was made at Rome ordering that whenever the two names appeared in combination that of Geta was to be erased. This was done, but so poorly that the name can still be read.[2]

Bishopric of Hexham

Hexham Abbey Rulers (674 A.D. to 1945) on a memorial tablet inside the Abbey

The first diocese of Lindisfarne was merged into the Diocese of York in 664. York diocese was then divided in 678 by Theodore of Tarsus, forming a bishopric for the country between the Rivers Aln and Tees, with a seat at Hexham and/or Lindisfarne. This gradually and erratically merged back into the bishopric of Lindisfarne. Eleven bishops of Hexham followed St. Eata, of which six were saints.

No successor was appointed in 821, the condition of the country being too unsettled. A period of disorder followed the Danish devastations, after which Hexham monastery was reconstituted in 1113 as a priory of Austin Canons, which flourished until its dissolution under Henry VIII. Meantime the bishopric had been merged in that of Lindisfarne, which latter see was removed to Chester-le-Street in 883, and thence to Durham in 995.



  • George Busby
  • Canon Barker 1866 – 18[98?]
  • Edwin Sidney Savage 1898 – 1918
  • James Vaux Cornell Farquhar 1919 – 1945
  • Archibald George Hardie 1945 – 1962
  • Rowland Lemmon 1962 – 1975
  • Bishop Anthony Hunter 1975 -1979
  • Timothy Withers Green 1979 – 1984
  • Michael Middleton 1985 – 1992
  • Canon Michael Nelson 1992 – 2004
  • Canon Graham Usher 2004 – 2014
  • Canon Dr Dagmar Winter 2015-

Notable burials


The organ of 1974

In 1865 the Abbey acquired a second-hand organ from Carlisle Cathedral dating from 1804. It was installed in Hexham by Nicholson of Newcastle and opened on 19 October 1865.[4] In 1905 this was rebuilt by Norman and Beard with Sir Frederick Bridge of Westminster Abbey as the consultant.

In 1974 a new instrument by Lawrence Phelps of Pennsylvania was installed. It is a two manual 34-stop mechanical action instrument.[5]


  • George Agnew Reay 1820 - ????
  • William Turner ???? – 1834[6] – 1855[7] – 1865
  • John Nicholson 1865[8] – 1878
  • James Price 1878 – 1882 (afterwards organist of St. Margaret's Church, Ipswich)
  • Thomas Simpson Camidge 1882 – 1889
  • Richard Seaton 1889 - 1909
  • Ronald Richardson Potter 1909 – 1911
  • Wakefield Cathedral)
  • Harry William Tupper 1917 – 1918 (afterwards Organist of Southwell Minster)
  • Hubert Henry Norsworthy 1918
  • Wakefield Cathedral)
  • Cecil S. Richards 1926
  • [9]
  • Newcastle Cathedral 1928 – 1933)
  • Alfred Southcott Morrish 1945 – 1948
  • Frederick Hudson 1948[9] – 1949
  • Dr Reginald Cooper
  • Ronald Womersley
  • Terence Atkinson 1965 – 1985
  • John Green 1985 – 2000 (also Director of Music at Dame Allan's Schools, Newcastle, 1967–1990)
  • Michael Haynes 2000 – 2011
  • Marcus Wibberley 2011 –

Assistant organists

  • Colin Basil Fanshaw 1947 – 1949[9]
  • Dorothy Alder
  • John Green 1961 – 1968
  • Ron Lane 1969 – 1977
  • John Green 1977 – 1983
  • Henry Wallace 1983– 1999
  • Hugh Morris 2001 – 2009 (currently director of music at Derby Cathedral)
  • Alexander Woodrow 2009 – 2012 (currently director of music at Bradford Cathedral)
  • Andrew Wyatt 2012 – 2015 (currently assistant organist at Chester Cathedral)
  • Michael Haynes from September 2015 - (formerly director of music from 2000 - 2011)


Hexham Abbey Choir consists of boys' and men's voices and sings choral evensong on Wednesdays in addition to morning and evening services on most Sundays. The choir has made two CDs in recent years and has toured to Paris (2007), Rome (2009), Hanover (2011), Berlin (2012)and Antwerp (2014) in addition to several tours within Great Britain. Several past members of the choir have gone on to win choral/ organ scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge colleges. The choir has appeared on BBC Songs of Praise.

Hexham Abbey Girls Choir consists of girls and men and sings choral evensong on the first Sunday of the month and morning Eucharist on the third Sunday of the month. Girls' voices also sing evensong on Thursdays. The choir began in September 2001 and is composed of girls aged 10–18. The choir has gone from strength to strength and appeared on BBC Songs of Praise. The choir has toured to Dublin (2007), Paris (2009), Hanover (2011), Berlin (2012) and several other places.

Hexham Abbey Chamber Choir is mainly made up of adults and meets once or twice a term for services or concerts. It has appeared live on BBC 4 Sunday Worship.

See also


  1. ^ "Old ruins, new world". British Archaeology. 
  2. ^ a b c d Graham, Frank (1992). Hexham and Corbridge A Short History and Guide. Thropton, Rothbury, Northumberland: Butler Publishing. pp. 2, 4, 5.  
  3. ^ Dixon, Rebecca. "Documentary sheds new light on Abbey windows". Hexham Courant (Friday, 3 July 2009): 19. 
  4. ^ "Ecclesiastical Intelligence, Hexham Abbey Church". Newcastle Journal (Newcastle). 20 October 1865. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Wright, Donald. Hexham Abbey. The Organ. Hexham: Peter Robson Ltd. 
  6. ^ 1834 Pigot's Directory for Northumberland
  7. ^ 1855 Whellan's Directory of Northumberland
  8. ^ The Newcastle Courant (Friday 1 September 1865). 
  9. ^ a b c Who's Who in Music. London (First Post-war Edition): Shaw Publishing Co. Ltd. 1949/50. 

External links

  • Hexham Abbey official web site
  • Read a detailed history about Hexham Priory
  • A Panoramic virtual tour of Hexham Abbey

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