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Christchurch, England

CHRISTCHURCH, ENGLAND, a municipal and parliamentary borough of Hampshire, England, at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Stour, 1 m. from the sea, and 104 m. S.W. by W. from London by the London & South Western railway. Pop. (1901) 4204. It is famous for its magnificent priory church of the Holy Trinity. The church is cruciform, lacking a central tower, but having a Perpendicular tower at the west end. The nave and transepts are principally Norman, and very fine; the choir is Perpendicular. Early English additions appear in the nave, clerestory and elsewhere, and the rood-screen is of ornate Decorated workmanship. Other noteworthy features are the Norman turret at the north-east angle of the north transept, covered with arcading and other ornament, the beautiful reredos, similar to that in Winchester cathedral, and several interesting monuments, among which is one to the poet Shelley. Only fragments remain of the old castle, but an interesting ruin adjoins it known as the Norman House, apparently dating from the later part of the 12th century. Hosiery, and chains for clocks and watches are manufactured, and the salmon fishery is valuable. There is a small harbour, but it is dry at low water. The parliamentary borough, returning one member, includes the town of Bournemouth. The municipal borough is under a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 832 acres.

Christchurch is mentioned in Saxon documents under the name of Tweotneam or Tweonaeteam, which long survived in the form Christchurch Twineham. In 901 it was seized by Aethelwald, but was recaptured by Edward the Elder. In the Domesday Survey, under the name of Thuinam, it appears as a royal manor, comprising a mill and part of the king's forest; its value since the time of Edward the Confessor had decreased by almost one-half. Henry I. granted Christchurch to Richard de Redvers, who erected the castle. The first charter was granted by Baldwin earl of Exeter in the 12th century; it exempted the burgesses from certain tolls and customs, including the tolls on salt within the borough, and the custody of thieves. The 2nd Earl Baldwin granted to the burgesses the tolls of the fair at St Faith and common of pasture in certain meads. The above charters were confirmed by Edward II., Henry VII. and Elizabeth. The Holy Trinity fair is mentioned in 1226. Christchurch was governed by a bailiff in the 13th century, and was not incorporated till 1670, when the government was vested in a mayor and 24 capital burgesses, but this charter was shortly abandoned. The borough was summoned to send representatives to parliament in 1307 and 1308, but no returns are registered until 1572, from which date it was represented by two members until the Reform Act of 1832 reduced the number to one. The secular canons of the church of Holy Trinity held valuable possessions in Hampshire at the time of Edward the Confessor, including a portion of Christchurch, and in 1150 the establishment was constituted a priory of regular canons of St Augustine. Baldwin de Redvers confirmed the canons in their right to the first salmon caught every year and the tolls of Trinity fair. The priory, which attained to such fame that its name of Christchurch finally replaced the older name of Twineham, was dissolved in 1539.

See Victoria County History - Hampshire; Benjamin Ferrey, Antiquities of the Priory of Christchurch, 2nd edition, revised by J. Britton (London, 1841).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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