A GROUP of local archivists are calling on the public to share their memories and memorabilia from Hexham Abbey.

Since 2011, Hexham Abbey conservation group, made up of a team of devoted volunteers, has worked behind the scenes at the landmark, collecting and archiving hundreds of years of its history.

The conservation team was founded by Dr Tom Kesley, and now has more than a dozen members. Amongst those are Chris Britton, Hugh Dixon, and Dr Christine Seal, who have played witness to some of the most impressive discoveries in the past, including Saxon and medieval stonework and decorations originating from the Abbey, late18th/early 19th century Hieroglyphic Bible, medieval building tools and rare artworks and photographs.

In total, 3,500 artefacts have been collected so far, including a rare15th century painted panel, depicting the ‘Dance of Death’ sequence, a popular religious allegory across Europe which was there to remind people of their mortality, by depicting death as a figure looming over King, Cardinal and paupers alike. This was discovered tucked away in the recesses of the Abbey’s gallery.

The latest panel discovered is the fifth in the sequence on display at the Abbey, although it is not currently on show to the public while restoration is under way.

“We now have a total of 80 wooden panels – that is more than any other church in the country,” said Chris.

A piece of precious Abbey history which are on display to the public are two miniature Frith stools, china models which date back to the early 20th century.

Locating these lost or forgotten artefacts has not been easy however. Parts of the Abbey’s stonework has turned up in pub gardens or been made into rock ornaments in homes, and although these have been returned to the landmark, the archive group still believe there are more to be found.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have found so many relics from before the Reformation, because the people of Hexham held on to their Catholic beliefs and those precious artefacts despite Henry VIII’s and Cromwell’s orders.

“We know that many still exist somewhere on a wall or in an attic here in town. We don’t want to take those away from people, but even if we were able to just borrow those items for our records it would mean a great deal,” said Hugh.

Along with preserving the items, Chris keeps a record of the Abbey’s history through his collection of pamphlets called ‘Treasures of Hexham Abbey’, which visitors can purchase.

So far, he has written a detailed history of the Abbey’s varied panels and stain glass windows.

A visitor book with recollections going back decades is also contains fond memories and experiences of the Abbey, all archived by Christine.

These include Christmas carol services, the christening of the Abbey bells and one unlucky choirboy’s fall down the Night Stairs. Any items which might be of interested the group ask to be brought to the parish centre in Hexham Abbey.