In 1843 Thomas Prentice
opened the spacious premises on the road to Newcastle and formerly occupied by William Sparke.
He named it The Hexham Hotel. He had laid in a stock of the most approved and genuine wines spirits etc and provided good stabling. 
By June he was advertising for couple to work as cook and waiter and laundress and housemaid 
John Slack Smith
When Thomas Prentice died in 1848 John Slack Smith took over the Hotel. 
John Slack Smith was an ex-convict. Convict indents state that he was born in Nottingham and was a butcher before transportation. He was convicted of forgery at Warwick in 1826 and transported on the Manlius
in 1827. He was granted a Ticket of Leave in 1833 and married Mary Mack (arrived per Kains
in 1831) in 1833. He was granted a Conditional Pardon in 1838. 
John Slack Smith was granted a licence for the Hexham Hotel in 1853, 1854 and 1855.
Newcastle historian W. J. Goold described the Inns at Hexham.....
In the little village of Hexham there were two Inns, John Smith's 'Hexham Inn' and John Hannell's 'Wheat Sheaf Arms' - each had a racecourse adjoining the house, and races were held there on holidays for prizes presented by 'mine host.' On these race days there was great rivalry between the two proprietors to secure the patronage of the sporting fraternity that came from Newcastle and Maitland
John Slack Smith was bankrupt in 1855. His stock in trade was offered for sale as well as land he held at Dungog. 
In 1855 the Inn was offered for lease:
To be let the well established Inn known as the Hexham Hotel, situated in the thriving town of Hexham, daily becoming more populous. The high road between Newcastle and the interior passes the door. The Newcastle Railway runs through the lands of the inn and also Mr. Eales' Railway, for the transit of coals from Minmi, passes through the property to terminate at a wharf near to the inn. The hotel is very commodious; contains six large rooms for the reception of visitors, and four bed rooms; has detached kitchen, stable, and out buildings, large paddock etc and will be let an advantageous terms. For further particulars apply to Mr. A. Dodds of East Maitland of to D. Carter, West Maitland
James Bain was granted the licence in 1856.
Notes and Links
1). Died at his residence, Melrose Park, Pilliga, May 2nd 1888, James Slack, only son of the late John Slack Smith Esq., of Maitland, formerly of Macclesfield, England and brother to Mrs. J. Whipps, Hexham, leaving an affectionate wife, fifteen children, and a large circle of relations and friends to mourn their irreparable loss, aged 51 years and five months - Maitland Mercury 12 May 1888
 Maitland Mercury 1 July 1843
 Maitland Mercury 3 June1843
 The Voice of the North - The Pioneers by W.J. Goold 11 January 1932
 Maitland Mercury 23 May 1849
 Maitland Mercury 10 November 1855
 Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4012]; Microfiche: 665