Building of the Abbey commenced in that year and the privilege of Sanctuary was obtained for it and confirmed by the Pope, Bishops, Kings and Princes.
Over the centuries there was a succession of Bishops and Priors when until 1538, Sir Reginald Carnaby took up residence. He died in 1543 without leaving an heir and so the Abbey reverted to the Crown. The then Queen Elizabeth I gave it to St. Christopher Hatton, who passed it by purchase to Sir John Fenwick the Lord of Hexham Manor.
Hexham Manor and Allendale, known as Hexhamshire, had always formed a detached part of The County of York until 1545 when through a land exchange with the Crown it became its own entity. York however still retained episcopal jurisdiction. In 1571 Hexhamshire was made a part of Northumberland.
It is commonly felt that the Royal Charter of 1599 that gave Hexham a Free Grammar School was granted because of Hexham Abbey' s long standing connection with York and its Bishops.
It is thought that the original school was housed in the old Lady Chapel of the Priory, which was known as the "Old School", but this is unlikely. Old accounts seem to imply that the school was based in private houses until the second half of the 17th century when the prosperity of the school made it possible to build a school house and master's residence at Hallstile Bank.
The building was in use by 1688 having cost about £200. Though the school was said to be a "Free School", the Statutes of 1600 had to amend this because there were no endowments sufficient to pay the Master of Arts that the Charter demanded. So Hexham born boys paid 4d a year while boys born outside the parish paid 4 shillings a year. In addition, there was a 5 shilling entrance fee.
By the end of the eighteenth century the school had declined. The Governors complained to the Archbishop of York that Mr Bushby, the master, "from his Warmth of Temper frequently corrects too severely". A later letter speaks of competition from other schools in Hexham. Mr Bushby managed to hang on to his post until he died in 1799 when the affairs of the school were reorganised. Fees for Hexham scholars were raised from 4d to 30 shillings a year, and the new Master, the Rev Thomas Scurr revived the fortunes of the school. With the appointment of Thomas Dobson in 1862 the curriculum was further broadened and a two tier system introduced. There were by now more than 80 boys paying 15 shillings a quarter for Arithmetic, Reading and Writing but 1 guinea a quarter for English, French, Latin or Greek languages, and Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Land Surveying, Geography etc.
Towards the end of the 19th Century the school again went into decline with only 30 on roll by 1892. Continuing financial problems meant that by 1899 the Charity Commissio ners made an Order superseding and dissolving the old "Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth in Hexham". It was replaced with a Governing body representing the Archbishop of York, Hexham U D.C. , Hexham R.D.C. Northumberland County Council, Hexham School Board and the Armstrong College of Science at Newcastle.
The old school and Master's House were sold in 1902 and a new school was opened in 1910 (now Fellside Middle School). Girls were admitted for the first time.
In 1939 the Governors accepted the County policy of amalgamating boy's and girl's schools. However War intervened and they postponed this until 1958. By 1960 the South Park premises were inadequate and a new school was planned for the Hexham Hydro site. The site opened in 1965 with 1st and 2nd year students still on the old site.
In 1976 Northumberland reorganised education in Hexham and the school became a comprehensive 13-18 High School.