Ok, so Christmas kind of derailed the blogging plan, oops! So I thought I’d kickstart myself with an easy post about a trip I made with friends a couple of months ago to an amazing place called Hexham Abbey.
We happened across the abbey completely by chance – looking for something to do and thought we’d have a peek. I was completely taken aback by how much exciting (to me) material we found!
To quote their website directly, “There has been a church on this site for more than 1,300 years, since Queen Etheldreda made a grant of lands to Wilfrid, Bishop of York c.674.”
7th century Anglo-Saxon church? Sign me up! Due to me not really specialising in Anglo Saxons and Old English until the third year of my undergraduate degree, I didn’t go to see as many Anglo-Saxon ruins, remnants or artefacts as I’d have liked. We did go to the ruins of St Paul’s Monastery at Jarrow, where Bede resided (we also went to Bede’s World and Lindisfarne, which I’d both 100% recommend).
During my postgraduate degree at Nottingham we went to lots of churches all over Cumberland, but that was looking more for viking artefacts, or the even more interesting Anglo-Norse artefacts. The place I really remember from that journey (other than the horizontal rain once we reached our overnight accommodation …) was St Mary’s Church in Gosforth, both because the Gosforth Cross is such an important monument … and because my assigned presentation for the trip was on the Fishing Stone. Maybe I’ll do a blog post on that one day. Oh, and the Silverdale hoard too.
So yes, despite loving this era of history and going to university not half an hour away, I had never been inside Hexham Abbey before.
There were three areas of interest. Firstly, inside the main body of the abbey there were lots of Anglo-Saxon artefacts, objects and structures, e.g.:
Secondly, down some exceeding steep steps, there was an unaltered (well, lighting added) Anglo-Saxon crypt made entirely out of Roman stone.
For a lot more information than we found out while we were there, check out their article about the crypt. The article mentions, near the end, a silver plaque from Hexham which is now in the British Museum, and in case anyone is interested it’s this one detailed here.
The third section of the abbey, where we probably spent the longest, is their new exhibition The Big Story. Not only are there many interesting artefacts on the walls, and an amazing chalice centrepiece, the exhibition has bucketloads of interactive 21st century ways to engage with the Abbey’s past. Great for children, and for people like my friends who were probably getting slightly fed up of me taking ten thousand pictures of bits of stone from marginally different angles. So me and my friends dressed up in ecclesiastical robes and hats and raced each other to correctly trace calligraphy with a stylus (I came second). Here are just a few of the exhibits you can see:
Then, just to finish off a very enjoyable trip, we went to the cafe. My food was utterly delicious.
Hope you enjoyed this blog post, and that you feel inspired to pop into the abbey (or Bede’s World or Lindisfarne!) if you’re ever in the North-East.