You are invited to our ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING on

Wednesday 17th May 2017 in Hexham Abbey Great Hall At 6.30pm

Followed shortly after by a talk given by
Jules Brown

of Historic England and NECT (North of England Civic Trust)

 “What a Character!”

Conservation Areas – What they are, what they do, and how they benefit Hexham

(Refreshments will be available!)

As many of you will have read in the press (Hexham Courant 20/01/17) supermarket chain Lidl is looking at sites in Hexham, including the historic workhouse site.  

Hexham Union Workhouse was erected in 1839 at Peth Head.  In 1883 it underwent extensive alterations and additions at a cost of £8000 and was then capable of accommodating 300 residents.  As part of the enlargement a Master’s House and a dining room were provided; the finely carved doorway of the house, bearing the date 1883 is still there.

The building was later occupied by Hexham General Hospital, until the new buildings were opened on the south side of Dene Park (A695) in 2004. The company Helen McArdle Care Ltd bought the site when the Hospital moved, and although parts were occupied until recently, the buildings have been largely unused and are falling into increasing decay. Half the site is a surface car park.

hexham-former-workhouse-se-elevationThe buildings are not listed but are within the Hexham Conservation Area. We believe that they form an important gateway to Hexham and that the buildings should be retained and brought back into use. We agree with the emerging Northumberland Core Strategy and the Hexham neighbourhood Plan, both of which designate the site for housing. Hexham Civic Society has actively promoted new uses on the site since 2012, and assisted Urban Design students at the University of Newcastle on three separate years to use the site as a ‘case study’, imagining how it could be brought creatively back into use.

Fortunately for the buildings, although unlisted, there is a very strong presumption in Planning Legislation against the loss of heritage assets within conservation areas.

On hearing that Lidl were interested in the workhouse site HCS made immediate contact and emphasised that while we supported regeneration of the site, and possibly a retail scheme on the surface car park, we were implacably opposed to any demolition of the workhouse buildings.  Lidl have advised us that “We are exploring a number of different sites in the Town and I wanted a general discussion with NCC, unfortunately we had to choose one site as the basis for the application meeting and it was this site.  The plans which we submitted to the Council did show the complete demolition of all existing buildings however as I have mentioned we are exploring a number of different opportunities which will hopefully avoid any works to the existing buildings on this site.”

We are also very interested in the murals within the dining hall of the site, attributed to E Swinburne and dated 1885, as reported in the Hexham Courant 27th January 2017.

As yet there is no planning application relating to the site and we are encouraged by Lidl’s statement as above. However, we will be keeping a very close eye on this site and welcome the views of our members on this. This is a brownfield site suitable for a number of uses, but given the character of the existing buildings, and the identified need for social and affordable housing in Hexham, a mixed residential development would be ideally suited to the site. Examples of the mix of housing that could be provided, include:-

  • affordable family homes
  • sheltered accommodation
  • private residential units for older people
  • self-build housing units
  • Co-Housing and Co-operative housing schemes
  • executive apartments

You can make your general views known to the Head of Planning Services at Northumberland County Council by emailing or to the prospective developers Lidl by emailing

Coming soon – Autumn/Winter newsletter – will it beat the equinox?

Newsletter Draft Autumn 2016.qxdIncludes shop front and retail updates, bus station, Hexham train station works, sash window restoration and more. Full colour issue. Free to members and through doors very soon.

The Society is seeking to secure the long term future of two established footpaths in Hexham centre. Since this summer, these two paths have been obstructed in different ways. 

One of the footpaths runs through Bank Head where the historic “Old Grammar School” (founded under a 1599 charter of Elizabeth I) is sited. The eastern end of this footpath is now often obstructed by the padlocking of the long- standing  double gates which separate the east end of Bank Head from Hallgate. 

The other footpath runs through the car park area to the north of Prospect House. This provided pedestrian access to an elevated viewing point above Hallstile Bank on the north west edge of the car park. From this elevated position there are panoramic views over the Tyne Valley and beyond. It is this panoramic view, the “prospect”, after which the house is named. This path is now fully obstructed by high metal fencing placed along the southern edge of the car park since it became surplus to Northumberland County Council requirements and was apparently sold on. 

General location of the two historic footpath routes

General location of the two historic footpath routes

If these two footpaths are to be restored to their previous “always accessible” status, sufficient evidence from local people of their previous use of these paths is a fundamental requirement if they are to be legally established as a protected right of way. At this stage, we would wish you to contact the Society if you have used either or both of these footpaths together with a brief summary of your level of usage, notably, for how many years you have used one or both of them and how often per year you have used one or both . Once it is judged that there is a sufficient level of previous path usage to support a legal claim for these rights of way, we will be in touch with you again about the next and final step, the completion of what is known as  a “User Evidence Form”. At this stage the Society may well organize a meeting for those who have contacted us to circulate, explain and answer any questions on the User Evidence Forms and any other questions. 

Your contact on this issue is Richard Simons – Tel: 01434 606034

Hexham Market Place – Regeneration Drop in Event Thursday 22nd September 15:00-20:00 Trinity Methodist Church

mkt-pl-bHexham Town Council & Northumberland County Council have asked sustainable transport charity Sustrans to develop some possible options for the regeneration of Hexham Market Place.

Sustrans works with local people to design unique, memorable places that are responsive to their needs. Sustrans wants to know what you think about Hexham Market Place and what you’d like to see.

They would like to invite you to contribute to the design process:

Public Meeting (drop-in)

Thursday 22nd September

Trinity Methodist Church, Beaumont St, Hexham NE46 3LS

3pm – 8pm

If you can’t make the event there is a website for you to leave your ideas and comments on:


Hexham Civic Society supports this initiative and encourages as many members as possible to make their views known.

Heritage Open Days – 8th – 11th Sept

From 8-11 September 2016, thousands of volunteers across the country invite you to experience local history, architecture and culture. All for free.

Hexham is no exception and Hexham Civic Society has teamed up with Hexham Abbey and Building Archaeologist  Peter Ryder (who spoke at our AGM in June) to open up a tour of the Secrets of The Abbey House. Information on the Abbey House tour and how to book is here.

Other secrets to be seen in Hexham as part of this set of events include a walking tour to the House of Correction; Core Music; the Abbey Bell Tower; the Forum Cinema Projector Room and Treasures of Hexham Abbey. Information on the wider area’s Heritage Open Day events is here.


As members may have read about in the press, sustainable transport charity Sustrans have been commissioned to explore views on the Market Place. As many will recall, Hexham Civic Society has long-pressed for the area to be made more of and we welcome this news.

The Hexham Courant reported that  “A public consultation is now under way to collect the views of residents, businesses, market traders and shoppers on how to make the historic heart of the town more attractive and user-friendly.

Supported by funding from Northumberland County Council’s Local Transport Plan, Hexham Town Council invited local businesses to tender for the consultation and design stages of the project.

Three bids were forthcoming and sustainable transport charity Sustrans, which specialises in working with communities to develop designs for change, was appointed.

Since then, Sustrans representatives have made regular appearances at Hexham’s Tuesday market, armed with maps and display boards which encourage people to share their thoughts.

Mayor of Hexham, Coun. Trevor Cessford explained to a meeting of Hexham Town Council on Monday that an interactive website was also up and running to collect comments online.

“The website is called a Sticky World site and allows you to actually target parts of the Market Place and put a sticky note on it with your comments,” said Coun. Cessford.

“All the information received will be put together to help inform us on what people want.

“We’re making this whole process open, honest and transparent.”

Deputy Mayor, Coun. Tom Gillanders, said: “Sustrans are also well aware that the days they have been in the Market Place fall within the school holidays and a lot of people may not be here. But they are looking at this as the first tranche of consultation, if you like, and they are planning more dates once the schools are back.”

The meeting heard that Sustrans would be in the Market Place next Saturday, August 13, and that a public meeting would be held once designs were drawn up.

“Our approach is inclusive and focuses on engagement and consultation,” said Kieran McSherry, design manager at Sustrans North East.

“We would encourage people to engage in our ‘co-design’ process.”

Go to to add your comments online.