We visited Christchurch some years ago however returned to share it with Lee.
The town sits between two rivers - the Avon and the Stour - and research indicates it began as an early Saxon settlement. It was originally known as Tweoxneam (Twynham) from Old English meaning between two rivers.
The name we know the town by today came into use after a church was built there in the 11th century. It was around 1095 the Normans established a priory. A leper hostel is also known to have existed.
When building the church, there was a mysterious builder who never joined the others for a meal break and didn't turn up to receive his weekly pay packet. Many months into the build, a very expensive beam was found to be too short. It had accidentally been cut too short. It was going to cost a lot of money to cut a new one.
When they returned the nexyt day, the beam was found to be the correct length. The builder never appeared again. He must have been a carpenter ... Christ ... so they renamed it Christchurch.
We arrived at lunchtime however the fish and chip shop next to the town mill was chockers. Even the Boathouse restaurant was full, however they sat us at the bar for a drink and 10 minutes later had a window table with a view.
A light lunch and then off to explore the Priory Church and grounds of the monastery.
Many red squirrels distracted and entertained us as we walked around the outside walls.
That the church is still standing despite it being the size of a cathedral is due to the fact that John Draper had served Henry V111 for some 16 years and he made a personal appeal.
"On 28 November 1539, John Draper, the last prior of Christchurch, surrendered the priory, and it was dissolved. Prior Draper was granted a pension of £133-6s-8d and the use of Somerford Grange for life.
The conventual buildings of the priory were pulled down soon after the dissolution. The King had intended to demolish the church as well as the conventual buildings, but in response to a plea from the townspeople, supported by Prior Draper, he granted it, together with the churchyard, to the churchwardens and inhabitants of Christchurch to be used as the parish church in perpetuity on 23 October 1540, a grant that was confirmed on 12 February 1612 by James I."
I insisted we finish our visit with a walk to the castle and Constable's House. It's the highlight of Christchurch for me.
I insist you read the following. I took a lot of trouble in cut and pasting it.
"Christchurch Castle is a Norman motte and bailey castle in Christchurch, Dorset, England (grid reference SZ160927). The earliest stonework has been dated to 1160 (864 years ago). The castle's site is inside the old Saxon burh dominating the River Avon's lowest crossing.
The Constable's House standing adjacent to the castle was added at around 1160, and is a rare and notable example of a Norman domestic dwelling. Today the bailey is home to a bowling green and gardens, and the ditch has been filled in, but parts of the keep and much of the Constable's House still stand. The site is managed by English Heritage.
The castle is believed to stand on the site of an earlier wooden fort built in 924 following the capture of the town ramparts in 901 by King Æthelwold of Wessex, and subsequently fortified with a motte by King Edward the Elder. After the Norman Conquest of 1066 the castle's defences were strengthened by the addition of a ditch and bailey surrounded by a wooden palisade. The wooden fort was eventually replaced with a stone keep. The Norman castle was a strategic defensive structure controlled by the King's constable until King Henry I (r. 1100-1135) granted it as the caput of a feudal barony to his cousin Richard de Redvers (died 1107), feudal baron of Plympton, Devon. While the Saxon defences had been against outside threats such as Viking raiders, the Norman fortress was more concerned with subduing the local populace. It was also a useful base for enforcing the New Forest Laws. The castle controlled the harbour and inland access via the Rivers Avon and Stour. The earliest masonry has been dated to c. 1160, and there is documentary evidence of the castle existing in c. 1130. Richard de Redvers is often named as the castle's first builder, although there is little documentary evidence of this, and this castle may well have been on the site of the earlier Saxon castle. The castle was rebuilt by Baldwin de Redvers to resist King Stephen during the civil war with the Empress Matilda in 1147. A great tower was built probably around 1300. The castle again saw action during the Civil War of 1642-1651. The Parliamentarians were allowed to take control of the castle in 1644. The Royalists laid siege to it for 3 days, demolishing houses on the corner of Church Street and Castle Street in order to site their cannons. The Royalists were unable to take the castle and Oliver Cromwell, fearing such a powerful stronghold, ordered it to be slighted in 1652. The castle is now in ruins; a couple of the keep walls remain and the remains of a rectangular moat.
Nearby is a domestic Norman dwelling, known as the Constable's House, which was built within the original castle bailey in 1160. Much of the stonework survives, including a rare example of a Norman chimney (one of only five in the country). The stone used for construction was Purbeck marble. The ground floor which has four slit windows was used as a storeroom. The upper floor, accessed by steps outside and an internal staircase, contained the main hall. It is 67 by 23 feet (20 by 7 m) in size. As well as the chimney, another notable feature is the garderobe tower, which extends over the mill stream added in the early 13th century to provide sanitary arrangements."