A thousand years of history, a beautiful coastline, peaceful rivers and a spectacular natural harbour make Christchurch a place of pride for anyone living there. I have worked a lot of my life there and have many friends living in the area.
The town is dominated by the 900-year-old Norman priory church which gave the town its name, the ancient borough of Christchurch can trace its origins back to much earlier eras with an Iron Age fortified settlement on Hengistbury Head and reputed Roman occupation of Purewell and St Catherine's Hill.
In the 9th Century King Alfred the Great created the fortified Saxon burh of Tweoxneam - meaning the place between two rivers (The beautiful Avon and Stour, which have a great influence on the area) - as a stronghold against the threat of marauding Vikings. And by the time of the Norman invasion Twynham, as it became known, was a thriving township on the fringe of the New Forest, with a natural sheltered harbour giving access to the trade routes of the English Channel.
Started in 1094, building of the monastic Priory continued throughout the middle ages which saw the town, renamed Christchurch, prosper as a centre of healing and education based around the wealth and influence of the church. While the Priors were banished and the trappings of Catholic monasticism stripped during the dissolution of Henry VIII, the townsfolk were able to keep their parish church - the longest in the country and larger than some cathedrals. But the nearby Norman motte and bailey castle and adjoining Constable's House did not survive the Roundhead assault on the Royalist garrison during the English Civil war.
There was more bloodshed during the 18th century when the long-running game of cat and mouse between the authorities and the smuggling gangs rife in Christchurch erupted in the Battle of Mudeford. Today the only evidence that Christchurch had existed so many years ago lies within the few ancient buildings that remain like the Priory, the remains of the castle keep and Constable's House and the small shopping precinct called "Saxon Square" give you a hint of what may or may not have come before in our beautiful, picturesque little town.