Hexham Old Gaol explores crime and punishment from 1333 to Victorian times, and tells the story of the infamous Border Reivers.
Opened in 1333, Hexham Old Gaol is the oldest purpose-built prison in England. The Old Gaol was used until the 1820s when it became a bank and solicitors’ office.
Prisoners at the Old Gaol had to pay for their food, drink, clothing and bedding when living here. Hexham Old Gaol was built for the prisoners of the Archbishop of York, who ruled over the local area then known as ‘Hexhamshire’.
The Church did not agree with the death penalty, so after their trial, guilty prisoners would be fined or punished in Hexham Market Place.
Many Border Reivers were locked up here during Tudor times. They came from the local families on both sides of the English-Scottish Border.
Dozens of prisoners died of plague here in the 1550s.
In 1761 the violence of the Hexham Riot in the Market Place, with more than 50 dying, led to many people being locked up in the Gaol; one of the wounded soldiers died here.
Hexham Old Gaol is a Grade 1 listed building with a glass lift that allows visitors to explore all four floors of the Gaol.
In this historic building, visitors can:
- Discover England’s frontier
- See the prison dungeons
- Hear stories from medieval times
- Find out what is was like to live in the cold, harsh conditions of medieval England
- Take part in fun family activities
- Enjoy temporary exhibitions
To dig deeper in to the culture of the Borders with the Library Collection or to explore the music archive and listen to recordings, please make an appointment using the details below.
Tel: 01670 624523 / 01670 624524