Hexham Abbey is one of the earliest surviving Christian foundations in Britain. Built in AD674 as a Benedictine monastery following a gift of land to St Wilfrid by Queen Etheldreda, the church was one of the first stone built, possibly based on a Roman-style basilica plan. The original building contains stone recycled from the old Roman fort at Corbridge. All that remains of the original church is the crypt dedicated to St Andrew, the foundations of an apse, St Acca’s cross and the Saxon Frith stool. Hexham Abbey has experienced many phases of building and architectural development. In the 9th century it was damaged by Viking raids and refounded as an Augustinian priory. Between 1180 and 1250, Augustinian canons constructed a substantial church in the new Early English style. The aisled rectangular chancel and choir was built first; then the south transept with its night stair still in use today; followed by the more richly ornamental north transept; and finally the crossing. In 1296, the priory was set alight by raiding Scots led by William Wallace. The 14th century renewal of the church involved building a row of low chapels at the east end of the chancel and aisles. In 1429, following a bequest from Newcastle merchant Roger Thornton, work was started on building the nave. The most impressive survivals from this period are the Ogle and Leschman chantry chapels with their richly carved stonework and collection of wooden panel paintings depicting Christ’s Resurrection. Following Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537, the priory was formally dissolved and the Abbey became Hexham Parish Church. In 1828, part of its East wing collapsed and was rebuilt and restored by Newcastle Architect, John Dobson, in 1857-8. Finally, at the end of the 19th century, the architect Temple Moore, a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott, rebuilt the nave on the existing 12th century plan in a Victorian Gothic style.
The grant will fund detailed 3D photogrammetry surveying and modelling the east end of the chancel, the tower belfry and the Saxon crypt. Surveying the East End will inform the design and specification for the work needed to the East End. Surveying the Tower will record what is left before it disappears and provide the case for restoration project. Surveying the Crypt is the first stage in a repair strategy to deal with the increasing dampness; it will also provide the means for visitors to the Abbey to explore the Crypt, even if they can’t personally access it.