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Apr 10 2013

The Charm Of Christchurch

Christchurch is a quaint and charming town in East Dorset.  It is conveniently located between the New Forest and Bournemouth.  I have lived nearby for years and have worked there on and off during that time.  So, I thought it was about time to blog about it.  It’s an interesting little town because of its past, historical buildings, and its beauty.

Although the town of Christchurch was founded in 650 AD, the oldest remains you can see today are from Norman times: Christchurch Priory, the Great Tower, which was part of Christchurch Castle, and the lord’s house.

The name of the town changed from Twyneham to Christchurch in the 11th Century due to the importance of the monastery which later became Christchurch Priory (pictured below).  Apparently, it is the longest parish church in the country and is larger than a number of English Anglican cathedrals.  The building is beautiful as are the gardens that encircle it.

christchurch, dorset, church, priory

Once upon a time, there was a castle in Christchurch which was built by the Normans in the 12th Century.  All that is left standing today is the remains of the Great Tower, which was built in the 14th Century.

history, normans, christchurch

Apparently, this house is one of the few remaining examples of Norman domestic architecture in England.  It was built for the lord of Christchurch.

christchurch, normans, dorset, history

There are other things to see while you are strolling around the town.  One that caught my imagination was the Ducking Stool, which is at the end of… wait for it… Ducking Stool Lane.  I’m not joking, honest!  This strange contraption was used in Christchurch from the mid-14th century to punish women who were found guilty of anti-social behaviour.  I suppose it was an early version of an ASBO (Anti-social Behaviour Order).  This is a replica of a ducking stool near to where the original would have been located.  The stream in which the women would have been dunked is much shallower now than it would have been when the stool was in use.

history, christchurch, ducking stool, dorset

Apparently, it is unlikely that these stools were used to identify if a woman was a witch.  In case you wanted a demonstration, this is how it would have been used – poor woman!

Ducking stool drawing

Moving swiftly on, Christchurch had a lucrative industry in the 18th and 19th century.  Any ideas what it was?  It was… smuggling.  Nowadays, at the waterfront, you won’t see smugglers but a cheeky bevy of swans.  Beware of your food here!  I’m giving you this advice from experience.  I was relaxing on the grass one day while chatting to my mum on the phone.  I had a half-eaten pasty in my right hand.  I could sense something close by and when I turned my head I saw a swan with its beak wide open ready to take a bite of my pasty.  I jumped up in surprise and tried to shoo the swan away and quickly ate the remainder of my pasty.  Unsurprisingly, the group of people sitting on a bench behind me found this extremely entertaining and were in fits of laughter.

swans, riverside, christchurch, dorset


Fancy visiting Christchurch one day?  This is where it is…

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Have you been to Christchurch or are you thinking of going?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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  1. Thetford: A Town Full of Surprises - Independent Travel Help

    […] there was a ducking stool here in medieval times.  Now, it’s a wonderful place to relax.  I’m a nature-lover, […]

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