IT may be another month before its scheduled to open to the public, but the £1.5m transformation of Hexham’s latest wedding and tourism venue is already complete.

And there’s no doubt the project to upgrade facilities at Hexham House to include a registry office, two ceremony rooms and seven luxury holiday apartments has breathed new life into the Grade II* listed building.

During a sneak preview tour, led by former registration manager for Northumberland County Council and project lead Lorraine Dewison, it’s easy to imagine the high ceilings, original wood panelling and newly-installed chandeliers providing the perfect setting for couples looking to tie the knot.

Even the original doors, decorative mouldings and ceiling cornices have been carefully restored by contractors Compass Developments to ensure the original character of the building was retained.

Built in 1723 to the north of Hexham Abbey grounds, Hexham House has always been surrounded by perimeter walkways and picturesque paths.

In 1928, having been extended on either side, it was bought by the formerHexham Urban District Council and the grounds were opened to the public.

In more recent years, it has served the town as a base for council staff in the days of Tynedale District Council as well as the county council.

But the building has been empty for the last five or six years and Lorraine acknowledges it has been crying out for redevelopment.

“I think the last council staff to move out of here were the revenue and benefits staff in 2011 or 2012,” she explained.

“It was very sad to see it fall into such a state of disrepair – at one point there was water cascading in through the roof.”

And with the annual heating bill amounting to around £47,000, the premises became a drain on the public purse, while Lorraine and her team were battling behind the scenes to secure the funds to transform it.

“I think there have been three chief executives in the time I’ve been banging on about using this place as a wedding venue, so it’s a lovely feeling to be standing here now,” said Lorraine.

“The site foreman, Ken Jones, and all the Compass staff really have done a great job.”

Two ceremony rooms – one of which holds up to 65 guests – now sit alongside a waiting area and office space for the town’s two registrars for births, deaths and marriages, who will be relocating from nearby Hadrian House.

“The whole basis of the business case for this place was for it to offer something different in a venue, and for it to remain affordable for people,” explained Lorraine Dewison, who has led the Northumberland County Council project.

“On a busy Saturday we will be able to cater for up to eight weddings a day here, for people who are looking to have a ceremony in a beautiful and convenient setting.”

Alongside the wedding complex are seven modern self-catering apartments, spread across three floors, with two offering two bedrooms and five with one bedroom.

These can be hired by wedding guests alongside ceremony bookings, with holiday makers expected to snap up the dates available in between.

“We’d like to be able to hire the space out for meetings and conferences too, not just for weddings,” said Lorraine, as she revealed one of the ceremony rooms has cleverly concealed kitchen facilities within.

“It has to repay that £1.5m investment, but we’d like to walk before we can run!”

The premises will now be handed over to a management company who will operate it on behalf of the county council.

And on Wednesday, neighbouring residents and businesses, who have watched the once grand building be slowly restored to its former glory, were invited to see the finished result for themselves.

But the Hexham House story is not over yet.

For the site is also home to a former Cold War bunker and discussions about preserving it as part of the Museums and Archives Northumberland portfolio, managed from Woodhorn, are in their early stages.

An open evening will take place on Thursday, August 10, between 5pm and 8pm for couples wishing to view the Hexham House.

The first wedding is scheduled to take place on September 1. Booking inquiries can be made by telephone on (01670) 602870 or email on