Keeping You Waiting

Before I reach the “big reveal” about Hexham, I thought I might string you along with a couple of posts about other places in town, places that will take us a little further back in history than the Georgian and Victorian buildings that dominated my previous post.  Two of these are pretty obvious targets so let’s begin with the third.

Like me, most visitors will park in the very confusing Wentworth car park next to the town’s leisure centre where if you park in a bay painted with a red outline you must display a disk which will allow you a limited amount of free parking.  Find a blue bay, and the same disk allows you to park for a little longer.  Get there early enough and you may find a white bay and be able to park disk and payment free without limit!  Whatever your colour preference if you then start up Wentworth Place you’ll pass a whitewashed building on your right.  Its bright decor might fool you into overlooking its antiquity, but this is the 17th century Old Grammar School, though there may be earlier masonry reused in its construction.

A few years ago it was rumoured to be becoming a hotel, but that doesn’t seem to have taken place and it was marketed as a private dwelling more recently.

Near to the school building is a place where you wouldn’t have wished to dwell.  Built in 1330 this plain rectangular block is an imposing sight even if not very visually stimulating.  The Archbishop of York ordered its construction and it is the Old Gaol.  It now houses some reconstructions of medieval prison life, though the original interior is largely lost because the interior was converted into offices in the 19th century… for use by lawyers!

Naturally you wouldn’t want to keep the residents of this structure too close so it is positioned outside the old town walls which incorporated our next building, sitting astride one of the main gateways into the town.  This is Moot Hall, a term from Anglo-Saxon referring to a place where elders would meet to make decisions; an early council.  Though there was an earlier hall here that was built at a similar time to the prison, the current structure is though to date from around the early 15th century.

Through the gateway beneath the hall you enter the town’s market square, where a covered 18th Century market building called The Shambles awaits.  This being market day however it was barely visible, though the shot below reveals a little of it as well as our ultimate objective.

For now though, let’s just enjoy another angle on the Grammar School.

Hexham Old Grammar School (17th C)

How Fortless

APW_4610_HDRThe shingle spit of Orford Ness runs north to Aldeburgh, the town giving its name to the river rather than the reverse.  Places like Doncaster (The Castle on the Don) and Rotherham (village on the Rother) take their name from the waterway running through them, but Aldeburgh means “Old Fort” so is independent of the River Alde (which as we’ve seen soon becomes the Ore anyway).

The origins of that fort are unclear, as no archeological work can reveal its history.  We know that it was here in Tudor times, for this was a busy port where Sir Francis Drake had ships (including the Golden Hind) built.  A must for a visitor interested in history such as myself you might think, and you’d be right but for one thing.

That shifting coastline once again.

Much of the town has been swept out to sea over the years, and a major flood in the 1950’s finally led to the construction of significant defences against the sea.  APW_4560

The town, like some English Burano is colourful and quaint, but it’s very easy to see that it’s not quite all there.

The Moot Hall, built in 1520, has a commanding position on the seafront, but it should be in the centre of town.  Still it makes a nice backdrop to a game of pétanque or some gentle model boating.APW_4650APW_4601_2_3-Edit

Aldeburgh has plenty of attractions left, but with only limited time available I could only fully do justice to two.  APW_4541Aldeburgh Fish and Chips is supposedly one of the best in the UK (though I suspect the accolade may be self-awarded!) and I wasn’t disappointed, but on a slightly more cultural level I found the shingle spit rewarding as I walked in search of the Scallop, a large sculpture by Maggi Hambling that stands as tribute to Aldeburgh’s most notable former resident;  Benjamin Britten.