Besides Roman remains I also visited some Medieaval sites in Northumberland, among them Hexham Abbey. Here as well as in Carlisle Abbey and York Minster, I met with kind, helpful and well informed staff members who took their time to satisfy my curiosity.
Hexham Abbey, seen from the east
The first church on the site dates back to 672. That year Queen Ethelreda (Aethilthryth - how's that for a name, lol) made a grant of land to Wilfrid, Bishop of York. A few years later Wilfrid got on the wrong side of King Ecgfrith, left England for some years and upon his return was imprisoned for a time. It was no easy job being a bishop then, it seems.
Wilfrid built a Benedictine abbey on the site of the present church. Attempts to reconstruct it from the traces of foundations show that it must have been a pretty impressive building: the long nave slightly narrower than the present one, with aisles on both sides (the basilika
style I mentioned in my post about Bursfelde Abbey
). Wilfrid's biographer, one Stephen, waxed rather poetic about the church "...with its crypts of wonderfully dressed stone and the manifold building above ground, supported by various columns and many side aisles, and adorned with walls of notable length and height ..." (text copied from a leaflet I got in the abbey).
The stones were mostly filched from the nearby Roman buildings of Coria settlement (Corbridge), and some give their origins away. More about that in another post.
Today only the crypt remains of the original building. Hexham Abbey interior, upper part of the south transept
The passegeway in the middle led from the former dormitory into the church
In Norman times, Wilfrid’s abbey was replaced by an Augustinian priory. The church one can see today is mainly that building of about 1170-1250, in the Early English style, a variant of the Gothic style (what would be Frühgotik
in Germany). The choir and the north and south transepts date from this period.North transept, seen from the passageway in the south transept
Since the church had seen damage over times and part of the east nave had collapsed, the east end was rebuilt in 1860. Other parts of the abbey were rebuilt during the time of Canon Edwin Sidney Savage (1898-1919). His project involved re-building the nave, whose walls incorporate some of the earlier church and the restoration of the choir.
Since the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537 the abbey has been the parish church of Hexham and remains so until today.