Hexham Abbey – A Jewel in Northumberland | retrodisko.info

Hexham Abbey was re-founded as a Medieval Augustinian Priory in 1113 but the part of present building dates from 1180 to 1250. It has suffered much from destructive restoration. The east end was restored in a barbarous manner and the beautiful fourteenth century chapels under the great east window demolished. The church was intended to be cruciform but the nave was never completed until 1908.The choir is of classic Early English form. It’s elegant arcade has pointed arches. The triforium has rounded arches and there is a unique clerestory above. The lofty roof is supported by huge blocks of oak with carved floral bosses.The transepts at Hexham are extremely long and imposing. The north transept was built between 1230 and 1240. The elaborately pierced and arcaded western wall combines well with the stone-vaulted eastern wall aisle. The south trancept, built in 1220, has richly arcaded upper walls and against the west side is one of the most famous features of the Abbey, the stone staircase which formerly led to the dormitory of the canons, and now called the Night-stair; it was used by the canons when they came into the church for Matins. At the top of the staircase is a door leading to a small room, in former times used by the man who watched during stated hours for any one fleeing to the church for sanctuary.Hexham Priory has many rare monuments and carved woodwork. In the north aisle of the choir is the beautiful chantry chapel of Prior Rowland Leschman who died in 1491. This chapel has been moved about the church but in 1908 it was put back into its position. Within is a stone effigy of the Prior.In the north of the chancel is a wonderful painted screen of oak. Beneath carved canopies are medieval paintings of the seven Hexham bishops who became saints. Beneath these larger panels are four smaller ones representing the dance of death; from left to right, a Cardinal, King, Emperor and Pope. In front of this screen is a lower one thought to have been used in the refectory. It projects in the middle to form a pulpit. In the traceried panels are faded paintings of Our Lord, The Blessed Virgin and The Twelve Apostles.The Rood Screen, a magnificent piece of woodwork, is one of the finest in England. Thomas Smithson, the Prior from 1491 to 1524 is responsible for it’s construction. The paintings depict The Annunciation and The Visitation, 16 portraits of the Bishops of Hexham and Lindisfarne, and other prelates.The font bowl, made from the base of a Roman pillar, belonged to St. Wilfrid’s church. The stem is Early English and the cover Jacobean.The Ogle Chantry was erected by Robert Ogle who died in 1410. It was practically demolished in the nineteenth century, but much of the woodwork survived and has been assembled once again and restored.The small Saxon chalice was found in a stone coffin in the north transept. Only two other Anglo-Saxon chalices are known. It was probably a small chalice used with portable alters like the one of St. Cuthbert in the library of Durham Cathedral.I hope that has given you an informative brief overview of the wonderful Hexham Abbey in Northumberland.