Hexham, Northumberland Family History Guide

Hexham is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Northumberland.

Other places in the parish include: Priestpople, Gilligate, Hencoats, Hexhamshire High Quarter, Moorland, Hexhamshire Middle Quarter, Hexhamshire Stinted Pasture, Hexhamshire West Quarter, Market, and Hexhamshire Low Quarter.

Parish church:

Parish registers begin: 1579

Nonconformists include: Baptist, Christians, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Independent/Congregational, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church in England, Primitive Methodist, Roman Catholic, United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and Wesleyan Methodist.

Parishes adjacent to Hexham

  • Corbridge
  • Allendale
  • Whitley
  • St John Lee
  • Warden
  • Haydon
  • Newbrough

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

HEXHAM, a town, a township, a parish, a sub-district, and a district in Northumberland. The town a stands on the river Tyne and on the Newcastle and Carlisle railway, 1¼ mile ESE of the confluence of the N Tyne and the S Tyne, 3½ S of the Roman wall, and 23¾ W of Newcastle-on-Tyne. It was anciently called Hextoldesham, Hestoldesham, Hutoldesham, Hagustald, Halgustad, and Hagustaldusham; and it took these names from two brooks which water it, anciently called the Hextol and the Halgut, and now called the Cockshaw and the Cowgarth burns. It possibly was founded by the ancient Britons, and seems certainly to have been occupied by the Romans. It was made a bishop's see, by St. Wilfred, in 674; it had, for prelates, Eata, who was removed hence to Lindisfarne, St. Cuthbert, who also was removed hence to Lindisfarne, St. John of Beverley, who was removed hence to York, and Acca, who was the friend of Bede, and died here in 740; it had, after these, Fridbert, Alcmund, Tilbert, Ethelbert, Eadred, Eadbert, and Tilferth; and it ceased to be a see, at the death of Tilferth, in 821. The cathedral was originally a monastic church, founded by St. Wilfred, and dedicated to St. Andrew; and is said by Prior Richard of Hexham, who wrote histories of Hexham, King Stephen, and the War of the Standard, to have been the most beautiful and magnificent ecclesiastical edifice of its time in England. The Danes assaulted it, ravaged the town, drove away Bishop Tilferth, and occasioned the cessation of the see; and at length, in 876, they completely destroyed the church, damaged or desolated all the houses of the town, and put all the inhabitants to the sword. A new church, on the site of the old one, for an Augustinian priory, was founded in 1112, by Thomas II., Archbishop of York. The Scots, under King David, pillaged this in 1138; and another body of Scots destroyed its nave in 1296. The battle of Hexham, which for some time decided the contest between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, was fought, in 1464, partly in the town, partly in the environs; and has bequeathed the name of Battle hill to a portion of the town's main thoroughfare. The insurrection, called the Pilgrimage of Grace, in 1536, strongly affected Hexham, and led to the execution of its last prior, at the gate of the priory. A riot took place in the town in 1761, in consequence of the conscription for militia; and was not quelled till 45 persons were killed and 300 badly wounded. John of Hexham, who wrote a history of England, Richard of Hexham, already noticed, Bate, a learned friar, Hewson, the anatomist, and Richardson, author of "the Rolliad," were natives. The town is situated mainly on the sloping skirt of a long, broad based, lofty range of hill; and partly on a belt of alluvial plain. Many portions of it command extensive views of the long, rich, trough like valley of the Tyne. The environs have diversity. of contour, and are studded with villas. The exterior appearance of the town, on all sides, from points both near and distant, is picturesque. The interior aspect is a mixture of the modern, the antique, and the quaint. The street arrangements, though including some good spaces, and opening into fine outskirts, are prevailingly narrow, irregular, and dense. One long street extends from E to W, throughout the upper side; is part of the main road from Newcastle to Carlisle; and bears, in successive portions, the names of Priest popple, Battle hill , and Hencotes. Two streets, called Fore street and Back street, go northward, from near the middle of this, to the Market place; a street, called Gilligate or St. Giles street, descends from the north-west angle of the Market place into the suburb of Cockshaw; three other thoroughfares, all of curious character, deflect from the Market place; and a new street, northward from Battle hill, was opened in 1865. The Market place, till lately, was one of the most picturesque and interesting squares in England; and, even yet, has strong attractions for both the tourist and the antiquary. Priest popple, Hencotes, and some other parts, contain many genteel residences. Cockshaw lies wholly on the plain, and is chiefly a seat of manufacture. A fine park, called the Seal, formerly the airing ground of the monks, ascends from Cockshaw to Hencotes, terminates on the W in a romantic dell, commands charming views, and is used as a public promenade. A pleasant small suburb, called Quatre-Bras, is ¼ of a mile to the W. A complete system of drainage and waterworks, in the town, was executed in 1864-5. The Newcastle and Carlisle railway goes along the plain, between Cockshaw and the Tyne; the Border Counties railway, with communication to Hawick and Edinburgh, deflects from this about a mile to the W, and crosses the Tyne on an iron bridge; and another railway, from nearly the same point, 13 miles south-westward to Allendale, and 7 thence southward to Allenheads, was authorised in 1865, and opened to Catton.road, 13½ miles, in 1868. A grand stone bridge, of 12 arches, after designs by Mylne, spans the Tyne in the neighbourhood of the railway station. A suspension bridge, constructed in 1826, at cost of £5,000, is over the South Tyne, 2 miles to the W. The moot hall stands a little E of the Marketplace; is reached through a Gothic arch, called Hallgarth, surmounted by a fine tower, seemingly of the time of Edward III.; was the court house, and probably also the prison, of the priory; is a curious edifice, of unknown date; and comprises a large tower, with narrow lights, and with a cornice like range of corbels, which probably once supported a hanging gallery. A large room in a modern building, called the Abbey, to the W of the parish church, is used for county courts and midsummer quarter sessions. A new town hall, a handsome edifice in the Italian style, with the ground floor fitted as a market house, was built in the newly opened street in 1865. The parish church, on the W side of the Market place, is the church of the quondam priory, and will be noticed in next paragraph. There formerly were two other churches, St. Peter and St. Mary, both long extinct; and considerable vestiges of one of them were discovered, a few years ago, at the rebuilding of some houses. The United Presbyterian church, in Battle hill was built in 1864, and is a handsome edifice, in the early English style. The Independent chapel, in Hencotes, was built in 1869, and is an elegant structure. The Roman Catholic chapel, in Battlehill, is a fine modern building, in a mixed pointed style. There are chapels also for the Church of Scotland, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and United Free Methodists; and most of them are good structures. The national schools, on the Seal, and the proprietory school, in an open lane off Hencotes, are ornamental buildings. The new cemetery, about a mile to the W, is beautifully laid out, and has two elegant chapels in the early English style. There are an endowed grammar school, a mechanics' institute, a public library, a dispensary, a workhouse, and alms houses. The parish or priory church is much the most prominent feature of the town. It still wants the nave, destroyed in 1296, yet is more imposing than the cathedral of Carlisle or that of Ripon. It consists of a transept, 156 feet long, a choir, 95 feet by 51, and a tower, 100 feet high; and, till 1860, it had a Lady chapel, 60 feet by 30. A Saxon crypt, beneath the site of the nave, was discovered in 1726; is part of the original church, built by St. Wilfred; consists mainly of Roman stones; and has a Roman inscription built up in its walls. The transept is of four bays, in early English, of the beginning of the 13th century; and its clerestory is an arcade of triplets. The choir is of seven bays, in pure early English; has an early English triforium; and was restored and modernised in 1860. The tower is embattled; has an arcade of five lancets, with two lights, in each face; and is surmounted by a pyramidal roof. The Lady chapel was decorated English, of the latter part of the 14th century; had the form of an E transept; was used, by the later monks, as a school; and fell eventually into ruin. Remains of the chapter house, in early English, and 30 feet square, are to the S of the transept. Vestiges of the cloisters, in four or five compartments of rich decorated carving, are at the modern building, called the Abbey, to the W. The precinct gate still stands to the N; and is of Norman architecture, with additions of the time of Edward II. A richly carved rood screen, some excellent stall work, three richly ornamented sedilia, a frid-stool, or stool of peace, the helmet of Sir John Fenwick, who was killed at Marston-Moor, a beautiful oratory, called Prior Richard's shrine, and several interesting old monuments, are in the church. The frid stool was a chair of sanctuary, which gave protection to any malefactor who could reach it. A custom existed in connection with the Border feuds, of hanging up a glove in this church as a challenge. Hence does Bertram say to Edmund in Scott's "Rokeby:"- "Edmund, thy years were scarcely mine, When challenging the clans of Tyne, To bring their best my brand to prove, O'er Hexham's altar hung my glove; But Tynedale nor in tower nor town Held champion meet to take it down." Hexham has a head post office, a telegraph station three banking offices, and three chief inns; is a seat of courts and a polling place; and publishes a weekly newspaper. A weekly market is held on Tuesday; a fort, nightly cattle mart is held, on that day, from October till Christmas; and fairs are held on 6 Aug. and 9 Oct. There are a large iron and brass foundry, and two breweries. Manufactures of gloves, leather, shoes, stuffs, and hats are carried on. Extensive market gardens and nursery grounds are in the neighbourhood. Pop. of the town, in 1861, 4,655. Houses, 620. The township comprises 4,775 acres. Real property, £27,520; of which £1,900 are in iron works, and £200 in gas works. Pop., 5, 270. Houses, 740. The parish contains also the four townships of Hexhamshire, and comprises 27,973 acres. Real property, £34,876. Pop., 6,479. Houses, 980. The manor belonged to the priory; was given, at the dissolution, to the Fosters; passed to the Fenwicks and the Blacketts; and belongs now to W. B. Beanmont, Esq. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Durham. Value, £300. Patron, W. B. Beaumont, Esq. A lectureship, in the gift of the Mercers' company, is attached to the church. The sub-district contains also the parishes of Slaley and Corbridge, and four townships of St. John-Lee. Acres, 53,542. Pop., 9,735. Houses, 1,628. The district comprehends also the sub-district of Allendale, containing the parishes of Allendale and Haydon; the sub-district of Chollerton, containing the parishes of Chollerton, Simonburn, Warden, and Newbrough, six townships of St. John-Lee, and the extra-parochial tract of Black Carts-with-Ryehill; and the sub-district of Bywell, containing the parishes of Bywell-St. Peter, Bywell-St. Andrew, and Shotley, fifteen townships of Ovingham, and the extra-parochial tracts of Masters-Close and Apperley. Acres, 198,586. Poor rates in 1863, £14,806. Pop. in 1851, 30,436; in 1861, 31,850. Houses, 5,752. Marriages in 1862, 220; births, 1,070, of which 152 were illegitimate; deaths, 614, of which 197 were at ages under 5 years, and 24 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1,863; births, 10,023; deaths, 5,770. The places of worship, in 1851, were 28 of the Church of England, with 6,773 sittings; 1 of English Presbyterians, with 500 s.; 1 of United Presbyterians, with 250 s; 3 of Independents, with 779 s.; 4 of Baptists, with 432 s; 1 of Quakers, with 300 s.; 40 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 4, 514 s.; 21 of Primitive Methodists, with 1,856 s.; and 3 of Roman Catholics, with 486 s. The schools were 48 public day schools, with 2,967 s.; 39 private day schools, with 1,060 s.; 58 Sunday schools, with 3,773 s.; and 3 evening schools for adults, with 37 s.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

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Below is a list of people that were declared bankrupt between 1820 and 1843 extracted from The Bankrupt Directory; George Elwick; London; Simpkin, Marshall and Co.; 1843.

Adamson William, Hexam, Northumberland, butcher, Feb. 17, 1843.


  • County: Northumberland
  • Civil Registration District: Hexham
  • Probate Court: Court of the Peculiar of the Archbishop of York in Hexham and Hexhamshire
  • Diocese: Durham
  • Rural Deanery: Hexham
  • Poor Law Union: Hexham
  • Hundred: Tynedale Ward
  • Province: York