Hexham’s Old Gaol was built in 1330 by order of the Archbishop of York and is the earliest recorded purpose-built prison in England. Up until the 1800s thousands of prisoners passed through its doors while waiting for their trials in the courtroom of the nearby 14th century Moothall. The Gaol continued to be used until the 1820s, when a new county prison was built at Morpeth. By 1828 most prisoners were held at Morpeth while the Hexham House of Correction was retained mainly for petty thieves. The building was subsequently taken over for use as a bank, and thereafter a solicitors’ office, a home for the Rifle Volunteers, a Billiards Club, and a firewatch station during the Second World War. By the mid 1970s the building was in a bad state but was eventually repaired and re-opened in 1980 as a town museum and tourist information centre.
In 2005, a further £1.5million restoration and refurbishment scheme was carried out to the historic fabric and roof of the Old Gaol and Moothall, led by the Historic Hexham Trust who lease the buildings from Tynedale Council. A new glass lift has been installed to give visitors access to all four floors of the Old Gaol, including down into the infamous dungeon with its 20 foot drop. The original stone spiral staircase, which was largely removed by the Victorians, has been reinstated. The museum itself has been completely redesigned and offers new exhibition displays and interpretive material as well as a local resource centre. Visitors can now meet the gaoler and deputy warden as they send prisoners to the dungeon, learn about the punishments prisoners could expect to endure in the Middle Ages, and experience the reality of medieval life in the Borders. There is even a chance to try out the stocks and pillory!
The Old Gaol and Moothall were reopened to the public by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester on the 30th September 2005.
|Project name:||Hexam Old Gaol|
|Download Project sheet →||View Map →|