HEXHAM Abbey will be forced to close for up to eight weeks in the new year for maintenance and repair work costing up to £100,000.

The Abbey will close to the public from January 7 while the work, which includes timber and stone conservation and preparation for a new boiler to be installed, takes place. It is estimated the work will cost between £80,000 and £100,000.

Rector of Hexham, Canon Dagmar Winter, said: “Like every building, Hexham Abbey requires regular maintenance. Given its age, its scale and significance, this presents us with complex challenges. As we face increasing cost pressures, we had no choice but to make this difficult decision to close for a period.

“By closing the Abbey to the public at our quietest time in January and February, we can carry out this work most quickly, safely and cost effectively, with minimum disruption and no risk to the public, and importantly reopen as soon as possible.”

A new charity, Hexham Abbey Heritage Development was launched at last month’s Royal visit in order to protect the building’s long-term future.

Operations manager Sally McRobie said: “This programme of work is part of our planned care of the building. Closure will enable these works to be planned and co-ordinated to ensure that known issues do not become emergencies, and even more costly.”

The Abbey will be open over Christmas, but during the closure in January and February, midweek and weekend services will be held in the adjacent Priory Building. The exhibition, shop, cafe and function rooms will remain open as usual.