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Borough of Christchurch

Within Dorset (above) and the United Kingdom (right).
Status: Non-metropolitan district, Borough
Region: South West England
Ceremonial county: Dorsetmarker
Historic county: Hampshire
- Total
50.38 km²
Admin. HQ: Christchurch
ONS code: 19UC
Post Office and Telephone
Post Code: BH
Dialling Code: 01202/01425
- Total ( )
- Density


/ km²

Ethnicity: 98.9% White

Christchurch Borough Council

Leadership: Alternative - Sec.31
MP: Christopher Chope
Christchurch is a borough and town in Dorsetmarker on the English Channelmarker coast, adjoining Bournemouthmarker in the west, with the New Forestmarker to the east. Historically in Hampshire, it is the most easterly borough in Dorset. The town has a number of tourist attractions, including the Priory church, and a harbour with important nature reserves of SSSI status.

This article covers the location, geography and history of Christchurch, originally called Twynham and some of the places of special interest.

Location and geography

Christchurch is the most easterly coastal town of Dorset. It is effectively a part of the Bournemouth and Poole conurbation, although rather different in character. Although within the historic county boundaries of Hampshire, at the time of the 1974 local government re-organisation it was considered desirable that the whole of what is now called the South East Dorset conurbationmarker, which includes Bournemouthmarker and Poolemarker, should be part of the same county.

The town lies between the rivers Avon (which flows from north of Salisbury) and Stour (which flows from north Dorset via Blandford Forummarker. These do not flow directly into the sea, but into Christchurch Harbourmarker. The modern borough extends both north-west towards Bournemouth Airportmarker, and eastwards along the coast.

Transport links


The town is served by the A35 to Southamptonmarker via the New Forestmarker, and by the Wessex Way westwards to Bournemouth and northwards to Ringwoodmarker.


The town has a stationmarker on the main line from London, Waterloo to Bournemouth.


Bournemouth International Airportmarker, at Hurn, is about 2 miles from Christchurch centre. Bournemouth Airport serves all the major cities in the United kingdom and throughout Europe.

Christchurch Harbour

Christchurch Harbourmarker is a large protected salt marsh protected by a sand bar(Hengistbury Head) at the entrance. The harbour is only accessible to shallow draught boats due to the sand bars at the entrance. The entrance, known as the Run, has Mudeford Quay on one side and the sand bar on the other. Considerable tides flow here, up to 6 knots during spring tides. The harbour is a protected wildlife refuge and is home to large populations of swans, waders and other bird life. On the south side the harbour is enclosed by Hengistbury Headmarker which was the site of the earliest settlement here dating back to the Neolithic. The landward end of the headland still has the bank and ditch built about 2000BC to protect the settlement.

Stanpit Marsh Local Nature Reserve is situated just below the confluence of the Rivers Avon and Stour. During the 18th century it was notorious for smugglers landing tobacco and rum in the narrow channels of Christchurch Harbour. It comprises areas of saltmarsh, freshwater marsh with reed beds and areas of scrub. It was designated as a Local Nature Reserve in 1964 and in 1986 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is approximately 65 ha in area and is managed by Christchurch Borough Council.

Places of interest

Christchurch Priory
The town centre is dominated by Christchurch Priorymarker and the High Street with its squares and parades containing shopping facilities.

Christchurch Castlemarker, now ruined, is of Norman origin.

Nearby is Highcliffe Castle, a Grade I listed building. The castle was designed by William Donthorne for Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay, and built between 1831 and 1835. It stands on the site of High Cliff, a Georgian mansion that had belonged to Charles Stuart's grandfather John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute.


The current local government district, which has borough status, was formed by the merger of the Municipal Borough of Christchurch with part of Ringwood and Fordingbridge Rural Districtmarker. Since then it has been part of the non-metropolitan county of Dorsetmarker. It includes large unurbanised areas, including Bournemouth International Airportmarker, and the parishes of Burtonmarker and Hurnmarker. By population, Christchurch is the smallest borough in England. There are currently 12 Wards and 24 Councillors.

The Member of Parliament for the Christchurch constituency is Christopher Chope, who holds a considerable vote majority of 15,559 and a percentage vote of 54.7% following the 2005 general election, making Christchurch one of the safest Conservative constituencies in the country.

The Christchurch Borough Council website is now part of the Dorset For You website which is the official local government website for Dorset County Council.


The town was originally a Saxon settlement called Twyneham (which gives the town's central schoolmarker its name), from "betweon eam", which meant (the settlement) between two rivers.

During Saxon times the harbour was one of the most important in England as it was easily reached from the continent and boats could enter the harbour and travel up the river Avon all the way to Salisbury. The sheltered harbour and easy access to neighbouring towns also made the area popular with smugglers, culminating in the "Battle of Mudeford" in 1784 between Customs & Excise and the smugglers. There was a Saxon mint in "Twynam" until just before the Norman Conquest.


The borough has a population of 44,865 (according to 2004 census), of whom a significant proportion are wealthy senior citizens (33.1% of the population are of retirement age). Indeed, the area of Highcliffemarker on the borough's eastern boundary possesses the highest percentage of elderly residents in the entire United Kingdommarker (70%).

Present day

The Quomps, a section of Christchurch Quay
The Avonmarker and the Stour both enter the sea in Christchurch Harbourmarker. This medium-sized priory and market town is generally regarded as a conservative, slow-paced and popular tourist and retirement destination "where time is pleasant" (according to the town's official description). The older part of the town, dominated by the Priory Church (the longest parish church in England), dates from Saxon times and still retains its Saxon street layout. It is an interesting mixture of picturesque walks, quaint houses, restaurants, public houses and coffee shops, some of which date back to smuggling times.

Part of the quay by the priory is known as The Quomps. The bandstand is used for free open-air concerts on Saturdays during the summer. This is advertised as "Stomping on the Quomps".

Near the Bandstand is a watermill (the building behind a blue cover to the far right of the photograph). It is unique, in that it is the only known mill which takes water from one river (the Avon) and spills it into a second river (the Stour). A mill-stream is supplied from the Avon near to the Electricity Museum behind Bargates, and flows for nearly half a mile to the mill between the Avon and the Priory grounds.

A Museum of Electricity has been created in the old power station (built in 1903) between Bargates and the River Avon. The building houses a wide range of exhibits, including a tram. There is a wide range of educational exhibits as well as old machinery.

In Christchurch there are several reserved buildings including the thatched 14th century Old Court House and the Georgian Red House.

It was in Christchurch that the Bailey bridge was invented. It was developed at The Barracks (first built by Lord Tregonwell in the mid-1800s to house his private army). Another bridge in the area, at the (now County Boundary between Dorset and Hampshire) boundary between Christchurch and New Milton, at Hobourne Farm (formerly Naish Farm) is the first road bridge to be constructed of reinforced concrete.

Food and drink

Christchurch has become a popular spot to enjoy the varied dining and drinking experiences on offer. Over the years the town has seen an increase in modern and contemporary bars and hotels.

Twin towns

Christchurch is twinned with:


These additional pictures show some of the various views of Christchurch which may interest visitors. The weather vane on the Priory may be unique.Image:ChristchurchCastle.jpg|Christchurch CastleImage:Christchurch Dorset 10.jpg|Christchurch Priory from Christchurch CastleImage:Christchurch Dorset 01.jpg|Christchurch Priory from Wick, across the River StourImage:Christchurch Dorset 07.jpg|The Quomps and Christchurch Priory from Wick Marsh, across the River StourImage:Christchurch Dorset 08.jpg|Christchurch Priory from Wick Marsh, across the River StourImage:Christchurch Dorset 09.jpg|Fish-shaped weather vane on Christchurch PrioryImage:Christchurch Dorset 02.jpg|Christchurch from Hengistbury Head, across the harbourImage:Christchurch Dorset 03.jpg|Sand bar and outlet of Christchurch HarbourImage:Christchurch Dorset 04.jpg|Detail of outlet of Christchurch HarbourImage:Christchurch Dorset 02.jpg|left|thumb|Christchurch from Hengistbury Head, looking across the harbour


  1. Christchurch section of Dorset For You website.
  2. Distance of mill stream flow taken from Ordnance Survey map of Christchurch, which also shows the outflow into the Stour.

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