DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a commission.
UK Genealogy Archives logo

Christchurch (Holy Trinity)

CHRISTCHURCH (Holy Trinity), a borough, sea-port, market-town, and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Christchurch, Ringwood and S. divisions of the county of Southampton, 21½ miles (S. W. by W.) from Southampton, and 100 (S. W. by W.) from London; containing 5994 inhabitants, and comprising the tythings of Bure, Burton, Street, Winkton, Hurn, Iford, Parley, and Tuckton, and the chapelry of Hinton-Admiral. This place is of great antiquity, and, from some relics discovered in the church, is supposed to have been of Roman origin; by the Saxons it was called Twyneham-Bourne, and Tweon-ea, from its situation between two rivers. The earliest historical notice of it occurs in the Saxon Chronicles, which record its occupation by Ethelwold, during his revolt against his kinsman, Edward the Elder. In Domesday book it is mentioned, under the appellation of Thuinam, as a burgh and royal manor, containing 31 messuages. The present name is derived from a priory, founded before the Conquest for a dean and twenty-four Secular canons, and dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and which was rebuilt in the reign of William Rufus, and dedicated to Our Saviour Christ, by Ralph Flambard, Bishop of Durham, and originally dean of the priory. It was largely endowed by Richard de Redvers, Earl of Devon, to whom Henry I. gave the manor. Earl Baldwin, son and successor to Earl Richard, placed Canons regular of the order of St. Augustine in the priory, which flourished till the Dissolution, when its revenue was £544. 6.: it was granted by Henry VIII. to the inhabitants for their parochial church. Some portions of the walls that inclosed the conventual buildings still remain; the ancient lodge is occupied as a dwelling-house, and the site of the refectory may be traced by the remnants of its wall. The town was fortified by Richard de Redvers, who either erected or rebuilt the castle, of which there are some remains to the north of the priory. These consist chiefly of the ruins of the keep on the summit of an artificial mount (the walls of which are more than ten feet in thickness), and part of the range that comprised the state apartments; the Norman style prevails, and the arches of some remaining windows are divided by pillars of that character.

Christchurch is situated on the borders of the New Forest, and between the rivers Avon and Stour, which, uniting their streams at a short distance below, expand into a broad sheet of water and fall into Christchurch bay, in connexion with which they form a harbour. The current of the Avon, to the east of the town, is intercepted and divided into two parts by an island, from each side of which a bridge to the opposite bank of the river forms the continuation of the road to Lymington. The harbour is accessible only at high tides to vessels drawing not more than from five to six feet of water, the entrance being obstructed by a bar, or ledge of sand, extending from Henigsbury Head, on the Hampshire side (where Hengist, King of the Saxons, landed), to St. Catherine's Cliffe, in the Isle of Wight. The quay is about two miles from the mouth of the harbour. In this harbour, as in the neighbouring port of Poole, there is high water twice at every tide, a peculiarity arising from the situation of the coast with respect to the Isle of Wight, and from the projection of the point of land on which Hurst Castle is situated. The river Avon was made navigable to Salisbury in 1680, but the accumulation of sand has rendered the navigation useless. Some of the labouring class have for years past been employed in drawing their nets for salmon at the mouth of the haven; the rivers are royalties, the property of the Rt. Hon. Sir G. H. Rose.

The town is partly lighted, and amply supplied with water; it is much frequented during the summer months as a place of pleasant resort, and the lofty cliffs in the vicinity afford delightful views. Several of the female inhabitants were formerly employed in the knitting of stockings, but this branch of industry has declined. There are two breweries; also two manufactories for watch fusee chains, at each of which about 50 persons are employed, chiefly women and girls; and almost every cottager is engaged in preparing the work connected with this branch of manufacture. The market is on Monday; fairs are held on Trinity-Thursday and October 17th, for cattle and horses, and for pleasure. The government is vested in a mayor, recorder, and an indefinite number of free burgesses, assisted by a town-clerk and others; but the officers do not exercise magisterial authority, the town being wholly within the jurisdiction of the county justices. The borough was summoned in the 35th of Edward I. and the 2nd of Edward II., but made no subsequent return till the 13th of Elizabeth, from which time it regularly sent two members to parliament, until the 2nd of William IV., when, by the Reform act, it was destined thenceforward to send only one. The right of election was exercised by the mayor and free burgesses; but by the act above named, the non-resident electors, except within seven miles, were disfranchised, and the privilege was extended to the £10 householders of an enlarged district of 5332 acres, including the parish of Holdenhurst, which was for elective purposes incorporated with the former borough of Christchurch, which comprised only 123 acres. The mayor is returning officer. A court leet for the manor is held twice a year by the steward. The powers of the county-debt court of Christchurch, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Christchurch.

The parish comprises by computation 30,000 acres, of which the surface is in general flat, and the soil in the vicinity of the rivers particularly fertile. The living is a vicarage, with that of Holdenhurst annexed, valued in the king's books at £16; patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Winchester; impropriator, the Earl of Malmesbury, whose mansion of Heron Court is within the parish. The great tithes of the two parishes have been commuted for £3200. The church is a magnificent cruciform structure, partly Norman, and partly in the early and later English styles, with a finely-proportioned and embattled tower at the west end, which was erected by the Montacutes, earls of Salisbury, in the fifteenth century. The piers and arches of the nave, which is of Norman character, are bold and simple; the clerestory is of later date; the northern entrance is a fine specimen of the early, and the chancel of the later, English style. The altar is decorated with a rude, but interesting, representation of the genealogy of Christ, carved in the style of the age in which the church was founded: to the north of it is a beautiful sepulchral chapel, built in the reign of Henry VII., by the celebrated Countess of Salisbury, who, in the 70th year of her age, was beheaded by Henry VIII.; and at the east is a spacious chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, erected in the fourteenth century by the ancestor of Lord Delawarr. There are some other chapels of fine execution, chiefly later English. The west front, principally in the early style, in which a large and handsome window has been lately inserted, is ornamented with a figure of Christ in a canopied niche. The length of the church is 311 feet, and its breadth at the western extremity 60 feet, and along the transepts 104 feet; the height of the vaulted roof is 57 feet. It was repaired in 1841. There are, an endowed chapel at Hinton, built about half a century ago; a chapel at Bransgore, a neat modern edifice; one erected in 1834, at High Cliffe; a fourth at Burton, erected in 1836; a chapel in the later English style, at Hightown, built at the expense of Lord Stuart de Rothesay and others; and a chapel at Bournemouth. The Independents and Wesleyans have places of worship, and at Burton is a Roman Catholic chapel. The union of Christchurch comprises 3 parishes, and contains a population of 7828.

An intrenchment, 630 yards in length, extends across the isthmus that connects Hengistbury Head with the main land; and near its northern extremity is a large barrow, in which human bones and an urn have been found. On Catherine Hill, about a mile and a half to the north of the town, and a mile to the west of the Avon, are traces of an exploratory camp, 55 yards square, round which are six small tumuli; and near the base of the hill are ten large barrows, whereof one has been discovered to contain human bones. To the north of the camp is an elliptical earthwork, of which the greater diameter is 35, and the less 25, yards; and the remains of other intrenchments may be traced in the vicinity. Somerford Grange, about two miles to the east of the town, belonged to the priory: part of the ancient buildings remained until about 25 years since, including the chapel, a stone edifice with a handsome arched roof of carved oak. Hordwell Cliff, between Christchurch and Milford, is famous for the fossil remains of tropical shells, sharks' teeth, &c. &c. Tutter's Well, at Stanpit, is celebrated for the purity of its water, and for its efficacy in weakness of sight.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.