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History of the Vault Hexham
The Gallery Vault.
Former Medieval Malting Floor , Malt Kiln then later beer and wine merchants conditioning cellars
This early C19 row of buildings flanks Hall Orchard, one of the ancient approaches into the centre of Hexham. Although an interesting enough building from the outside, its real secret lies beneath - the stone exterior hiding an unusual subterranean history recently unearthed by Artist owner Ben Haslam.
Twelve feet below the current ground surface lies the probable original ground level where a Medieval Brewery once operated. Originally a low long narrow ‘Burgage” building - probably with a heather-thatched or slated roof - its walls were adapted as brewing techniques developed. The stone vaulted ceiling is estimated to date from the C17, enclosing a malt kiln and malting floor. The ventilated vault allowed brewing operations to be carried on throughout the year as temperature and germination could be
controlled with some accuracy – previous primitive systems allowed only 6 months of production during the cooler months. The sophisticated and beautifully constructed stone vault suggests a well-funded commercial enterprise. Holes to the front of the building, visible from Hall Orchard below the shop windows, were initially thought to be coal chutes but are now believed to be ventilation holes, four in total. To the rear of the vault, are larger arched access indicate what was once level access to the vault later tunnelled and stepped upward towards the Old Gaol yard perhaps where the Kiln was sited , all these features are now banked over and the Malt Kiln sadly Lost.
It is thought that the building became increasingly subterranean as ground levels rose to accommodate drains and sewers that were laid parallel to the building in the 1800s.
Artist Ben Haslam is the current owner and has restored the cellars with great care and attention. The beautiful stone construction, has been cleaned and restored all by hand using local craftsmen.
The Vault is now used as an Alternative Arts venue for the enjoyment of music and performance.
For more information contact Haslam’s of Hallgate 01434 603884
an Early photograph The Hallgate Building taken circa 1930 when tradings as Thomas Miller Wine and Beer Merchants
The cellar pre alterations showing the stone wall that divided the celler into two sections . This stone section removed by Ben Haslam and a steel girder installed to support the building upstairs . This reveaied the original malting floor and footprint of the medieival cellar burgage plot.
the cleaning of the stone began in 2017 by hand by local stone masons ,Nick Rowsell and David Rostbotham A square meter took a whole day to remove old lime wash .
A drawing by Ben Haslam used to illustrate how the the air vent openings would appear and entrance for a planning application
Sewerage was a huge problem to deal with . . here showing the new sewer line and cellars opened up . A special sewerage system would be stalled in one of the old air shutes
Most of the stone from the dividing wall was reused to make the soundproof lobby and toilet cloak rooms and to conceal the new sewer line