Christchurch History Online

The History of Christchurch

The story of Christchurch began in the Iron age. Settlers built their homes near the mouths of two rivers, these rivers were to become known as The Stour and The Avon. The area was perfect for dwelling due to the high lookout spots (Hengistbury Head and St Catherine's Hill) and had easy access to food and timber. Fish was aplenty along with deer, boar and other game.

The area of Hengistbury Head had the added bonus of being very shallow at the mouths of the rivers. This meant that invaders in ships would run aground due to their large keels, whereas the iron age settlers used flat bottomed boats. To maintain the level of the riverbed they used to throw animal bones and shells into the river whenever they could.

The settlement existed until Roman times when the Hamlet as we know today was created. The Saxons made it into a contained village and built a boundary and established a small Priory. The village became known as Thuinam/Twynham. The origin of the name is probably from the celtic language as Twyn is Gaelic for a small hill and ham short for Hamlet.

Thuinam grew steadily until 1094 when the Priory, as we know it now, was constructed on King William II's request. The name of Christchurch arose due to a miracle occurring during the construction of the church. It is believed that Jesus Christ helped construct the Priory by enlarging an incorrectly sawn beam.

The town became known as Christ's Church of Twynham and over time was abbreviated to Christchurch. The Constables house was also created in the Norman times. The Manor of Christchurch was given to Richard de Redvers by Henry I in 1100. He was believed to have built the first castle (a motte and bailey). In 1160 the Constable's house was built in the bailey and was updated in 1260 to have a latrine over the river. It contains one of only five existing Norman chimneys surviving in England.

The Castle (of which only the Keep and two walls remain) had seen two major battles in it's time firstly in 1147 in the battle between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda and then in 17th century civil war. In 1148 the castle was taken over by Walter de Pinkney and in 1153 it was regained by the King. Baldwin De Redvers (son of Richard) was taken prisoner but escaped and recaptured Twynham Castle at a later date. The Castle was in use until 1652 when it was demolished after being left in disrepair.

The town continued to grow and became a borough. In 1975 a formal Sister City agreement was signed with New Zealand. On the 13th September 1981 Christchurch became twinned with Aalen Germany, in 1985 Saint Lô and Tatabanya in 1992.