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Christchurch, Hampshire

Historical Description

Christchurch, a town, a parish, and a municipal and parliamentary borough in Hants. The town stands on the peninsula at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Stour, with a station on the L. & S.W.R., 98 miles from London, 10 NW by W of the Needles, and 21 SW by W of Southampton. It possibly was founded by the ancient British, or more probably by the Romans, and it has yielded traces of a Roman temple to Mars. It was known to the Saxons as Tweonea or Tweoxnea, and it is mentioned in the Saxon Chronicle in connection with the contest for the crown in 901 between Edward the Elder and his kinsman Ethelwald. The manor of it belonged at Domesday to the Crown, and bore then the name of Thuinam or Twineham, and it was given by Henry I. to Richard de Redvers, and passed to the Montacutes and the Nevilles. A monastery was founded at it by King Atlielstan, rebuilt as a collegiate church by Flam-bard, the architect of Durham cathedral, and converted into an Augustinian priory in 1150 by Baldwin de Redvers, and this occasioned the name to be changed into Christchurch, at first Christchurch-Twineham. Town walls and a castle were erected by either Richard or Baldwin de Redvers.

The shell of the castle

The shell of the castle-keep, in many parts 12 fact thick, still stands on a mound, and a house of late Norman character, about 70 feet long and 24 wide, supposed to have been the residence of the governor, stands about 100 yards to the east. The priory church continues in good condition, has undergone extensive restorations, is partly used as the parish church, and ranks in size and grandeur with some of the cathedrals. It consists of nave and choir with aisles; a transept, with two eastern chapels in each wing; a Lady chapel, a western tower, and a north porch. The nave is 118— feet long, 58½ wide, and 58 high; the choir 70 feet long, 21¼ wide, and 63 high; the transept, 101 feet long and 24½ wide; the Lady chapel, 36½ feet long and 21 wide; the western tower, 120 feet high; the entire edifice, 311½ feet long. The nave is of seven bays, Norman to the top of the triforium, and Early English in the clerestory; the choir stands on a Norman crypt, consists mainly of Perpendicular architecture, and is separated from the nave by a superb rood screen, restored in 1848; the south transept has two apsidal Norman chapels, the one above the other; the north transept has two Early Decorated ones; the Lady chapel is very rich Perpendicular, with a fan vault. The western tower forms the west front, and is pierced with a great door and a six-light window, and the north porch is Early English, projects more than 40 feet, and is approached through an avenue of elms. The chief monuments in the church are a sculpture by Weeks to the poet Shelley, a memorial window to Mr Ferrey, a statue by Flaxman to Viscountess Fitzharris, a chantry of Caen stone to the Countess of Salisbury, mother of Cardinal Pole, and chantries, altar-tombs, or other monuments to the fourth Earl of Devon, Bishop Draper, Robert Harys, John Barnes, Robert White, Sir John Chidioke, and Sir Thomas West. Some fragments of the domestic conventual buildings are on the south, the convent garden is on. The south-east, and a shaded walk, which bore the name of Paradise, and still bears that name, is adjacent. A substantial English oak roof was fixed over the north transept in 1882. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Winchester; value, £356. Patron, the Dean and Chapter of Winchester.

The town consists of two principal streets, and a few minor ones. It has a head post office, two banks, one principal and several smaller inns, a town-hall, three bridges, a Wesleyan chapel, a Roman Catholic church, two Congregational chapels, several good schools, a workhouse, and some charities. There is a recreation ground of 10 acres on the common for the use of the parishioners. A bridge was erected over the Avon at Tuckton in 1882, tlius affording easy access to Southbourne-on-Sea and adjacent places. Christchurch is a sub-port to Southampton, and a coastguard station, is famous for its salmon fishery, and publishes three weekly newspapers. The brewing of ale is the chief industry. The town is a borough by prescription; it sent two members to Parliament from the time of Elizabeth till the Act of 1832, and now sends one, and it is governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors. The old borough was conterminate with one of eight tithings of the parish, but the new borough includes other tithings, and also the parish of Holdenhurst, with the rapidly increasing town of Bournemouth. Edward VI. visited the town in 1522. Bingley the naturalist was curate here, and Warner the topographer and Admiral Sir Harry Neale were educated in the public school.

The parish includes the hamlets of Hum, Parley, Tuckton,. and Wick. Acreage, 21,264; population, 25,476. Heron Court is the seat of the Earl of Malmesbury. St Catherine's Hill, about !— " mile NW of the town, consists of rolled gravely has on the SW side remains of an ancient small square camp, and is crowned at various points by circular mounds, which may have been watch-towers. Hengistbury Head or Christchurch Head, projecting into the sea, 2 miles SE of the town,. consists of ironstone, which supplied the material for the castle and the priory, and is now quarried for exportation to Wales; and it is cut off from the sea by an ancient broad trench, with a single lofty vallum, flanked by some irregular mounds. An incurvature on the coast, commencing at Hengistbury Head, extending 7g- miles to the cast, and measuring at the farthest 2 miles northward, bears the name of Christchurch Bay, and in consequence of its peculiar position with reference to the Isle of Wight and to neighbouring headlands, has high-water twice every tide. The mouth of the Avon enters the west side of the bay, immediately within Hengistbury Head, but though expanding inwardly into a capacious harbour, is rendered of small value to navigation by the narrowness of entrance and a bar.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyHampshire 
Ecclesiastical parishChristchurch Holy Trinity 
Poor Law unionChristchurch 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Christchurch from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Hampshire (County Southampton) is available to browse.


Online maps of Christchurch are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Hampshire newspapers online:

Villages, Hamlets, &c

Newtown (Christchurch)

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Hampshire, 1530, 1575, & 1622-34 is available to view on the Heraldry page.

RegionSouth West
Postal districtBH23
Post TownChristchurch