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Reconnection work completed at Hexham Abbey

24 October 2014

SAM ATKINS

Work has been completed on a year-long project, costing £3 million, to reunite two parts of Hexham Abbey severed by King Henry VIII's commissioners at the dissolution of the monasteries.

The Abbey Church, founded in 674, has been the Parish Church of Hexham, in Northumberland, since the dissolution. For the first time since 1537, it is now reconnected to the 13th-century monastic complex. Buildings that ultimately passed into the local authority's ownership have been restored. The work has allowed the creation of educational and other new facilities, including conference, function, and wedding venues, community meeting-rooms, a café, and an interactive visitor exhibition (above) in the former monastic workshop. A prime exhibit is an 1000-year-old Saxon chalice (below).

"History will record the year 2014 as one of great significance in the long life of Hexham Abbey," its interim minister, the Revd Michelle Dalliston, said. "Over the last 12 months, restoration specialists have stripped away plasterboard and Formica - the legacy of recent years of local-authority occupation - to restore the beauty of the building beneath. Theirs was a serendipitous exercise in peeling back many layers to reveal the history beneath, as illustrated when a plasterboard wall was removed to reveal a perfectly preserved medieval fireplace." They had also uncovered a garderobe masons' marks, and gravestones used as door lintels. "The team has made sure that the wonder and reflective space of the Abbey - in a sense its prayer-soaked walls - remains, because that is what makes this place really special."

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