HRH Prince of Wales visited the town on Wednesday to meet some of the county’s tradespeople at a special Produced in Northumberland market, before touring the historic Hexham Abbey.

While he was only due to be in Hexham for 40 minutes, he took extra time to talk with people – and even made an impromptu visit to the Abbey’s seventh century crypt.

Rector of Hexham, Dagmar Winter, said: “It was a very successful visit and he was really interested in the Abbey. The whole abbey clearly left a big impression on him, and he asked us to look after it!”

Prince Charles’ visit to the abbey coincided with the launch of its new charity, Hexham Abbey Heritage Development, which is aimed at protecting the building’s long-term future, which includes a new roof and the conservation of unique 15th century panel paintings.

Prior to his tour of the Abbey, the heir to the throne spent time speaking with stallholders at the farmers’ market.

His visit started by hearing how Ceri Aitman uses local products in her business Oakwood Soaperie, immediately before talking to Lizzie Sharman, who makes hand-produced wool products for her business, Miss Sharman’s Woollens, in Tarset.

Prince Charles received some special gifts to take away with him too, with County Durham-based the Sauce Queen making a specially commissioned Royal Blue product, while Sarah Breckons, the owner of Bellingham-based Spent Shells, handed over a hat pin and cartridge key ring for him and the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles.

His time in the market ended with a repeat meeting with Carolyn and David Ridley, of Ridley’s Fish and Game, Acomb, after they provided mackerel for him as part of the Great British Menu a few years ago.