Visit Christchurch and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Christchurch, Dorset. This tranquil town lies between the Avon and the Stour, the two rivers meeting before they flow out into Christchurch harbour. First mentioned in about 900, at the time of the Domesday Book there were already 21 houses here and 24 canons attached to the church. In the old days the town was named Twynham, a name which tradition says was changed when the church was built.
Legend has it that a site for the church was originally chosen on St Catherine's Hill, some 165 ft high with wonderful views over the town. But every day the building work was undone and materials were mysteriously moved to another site. When a beam cut short in error was miraculously lengthened by a stranger, it was decided that he must be Christ in person, and both the site and the name of the town were changed. The beam can still be seen built high in the wall above the choir.
The church was first started in the 11th century by Flambard, who rose from being superintendent of the King's kitchen to Bishop. Later the town was given to Richard de Redvers by his cousin, Henry I. Christchurch became an Augustinian priory in about 1150, and the main building was finally finished about a century later. At the Dissolution the priory buildings were destroyed, but the church was retained to serve the parish.
The nave is 118 ft long and seven massive Norman arcades still remain. The crypt, too, is Norman, but the finest work from this period is undoubtedly the turret in the north transept. The impressive north porch, approached by an elm avenue, is 13th-century. The magnificently carved stone reredos is 14th century, and some of the wood carving in the choir is 13th century, some 15th century. The chantries are perhaps the church's chief glory, and of these the Salisbury Chantry is the most beautiful. It is built of Caen stone, which is so hard that even today every detail of the carving is sharp. It has a sad story attached to it, for Margaret, Countess of Salisbury and niece of Edward IV, lost brother, son, father and grandfather either in battle or to the axe, and when over 70 was herself beheaded by Henry VIII. Burial here was refused and she lies near the Tower of London.
Of the castle, not much remains except the walls of the keep, but in the gardens of the King's Arms Hotel close by there are the remains of the Norman Castle Hall, or the constable's house. The roof has disappeared, but the massive walls remain, as does part of the old Norman staircase. On the first floor there is a hall, still with its original windows and round chimney. Down below the windows are looped for defence. Nearby are the remains of a medieval garderobe, and also a small thatched house, with plasterwork front and low eaves, where the courts leet were once held. The two-arched bridge over the Avon is Norman, and the old priory mill still stands.
There is much of interest nearby. The Red House Museum and Art Gallery is housed in a Georgian building and has natural history exhibits and antiquities. At Hengistbury Head, which belongs to Bournemouth Corporation and lies between that town and Christchurch, there is an old earthwork with double ditch. North of the harbour are the Stanpit Marshes, a nature reserve and the home of rare wildfowl, from which there are good views. Mudeford, once separate but now joined to Christchurch, has some pretty thatch and retains the atmosphere of an old fishing village.
Nearby towns: Bournemouth, Keyhaven, Lymington, Lyndhurst, New Milton, Poole, Ringwood
Nearby villages: Burley, Burton, Bransgore, Milford on Sea, Sopley
Have you decided to visit Christchurch or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Christchurch bed and breakfast (a Christchurch B&B or Christchurch b and b)
- a Christchurch guesthouse
- a Christchurch hotel (or motel)
- a Christchurch self-catering establishment, or
- other Christchurch accommodation