Heddon-on-the-Wall was brought to the attention of the nation when it was revealed in February 2001 that the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease originated from a farm in the village. This severely affected Heddon-on-the-Wall's primary industry which is agriculture. Over the years however other industries have existed in Heddon-on-the Wall. These include salmon fishing in the River Tyne, coal mining, the quarrying of sandstone and limestone and brick-making.
Heddon-on-the-Wall grew up around Hexham Road, which until 1971 was the main road from Newcastle to Hexham. The A69 road bypassed Heddon-on-the-Wall which runs from Newcastle to Carlisle passing Hexham. Heddon-on-the-Wall benefits from its proximity to the A69 but is more popular with retired people rather than commuters due to its lack of a railway station, from which its close neighbour Wylam benefits. Heddon-on-the-Wall did used to be served by a railway station on the North Wylam Loop but was a long walk from the village. The station and the rest of the line closed in 1958.
Heddon-on-the-Wall attracts tourists passing through on tours of Hadrian’s Wall. The village has the longest section of unbroken wall at its original and planned width (most sections were not built to the full width to save time and money). Heddon-on-the-Wall has two public houses, the Three Tuns and the Swan Inn. The Swan Inn is popular with tourists due to its proximity to Hadrian’s Wall.
St Andrews Church is located opposite the Swan Inn and parts of it date back to 680 AD (Saxon). The oldest parts of St Andrew's are still visible in some of the walls of the chancel behind the choir stalls. The original stone structure was built using recycled stone from Hadrian’s Wall. Before St Andrew's was built it is believed that the site was used for pagan ceremonies so the location has always been of religious significance.