The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Christchurch Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Twineham; Twynham; Twynam; Twinamburne; Cristiciria

In the civil parish of Christchurch.
In the historic county of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Modern Authority of Dorset.
1974 county of Dorset.
Medieval County of Hampshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SZ159926
Latitude 50.73348° Longitude -1.77446°

Christchurch Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


The clear juxtaposition of priory and castle dominates the modern town of Christchurch, in a way that can rarely be seen elsewhere. The quality and extent of surviving remains in addition to documentary records covering the early medieval and medieval periods, give Christchurch much significance in the study of urban form and development. Visually it is an outstanding example of its type, with much accessible to the public.
The monument includes a pre-Conquest monastery and associated early Christian cemetery, a later Augustinian priory and an adjacent motte and bailey castle, all situated on level ground between the estuaries of the Rivers Avon and Stour at Christchurch. The priory precinct overlies part of, and extends beyond, the fortified town of Twynham, which dates from the early seventh century AD. The pre-Conquest monastery and cemetery lay within the boundaries of the town. The earliest remains at the site include the pre-Conquest monastery and an associated early Christian cemetery. The monastery was associated with the Saxon burgh (fortified town) known as 'Twynham' (meaning place between the streams). Documentary sources suggest that a church, founded at the site during the later Saxon period, served a college of 24 canons. Records also suggest that by the late 11th century the Saxon church was associated with seven chapels within the churchyard, and that these were demolished c.1100 AD in order to make way for a new church building designed by Flambard. This in turn became the priory church of the Augustinian priory founded by Baldwin de Redvers around 1150. The church was incomplete at this time and the nave was not finally completed until 1234. The priory formed an important Augustinian house within the region and its presence ensured that the town thrived as a trading centre. This importance is reflected in the change of the name from Twynham to Christchurch soon after the construction of the priory. The priory church is well preserved and has served as the parish church since 1540, when it was granted to the parish by Henry VIII. The churchyard is now closed. The main monastic structures were around the cloister block, situated to the south of the church. Many of these were demolished following The Dissolution, but partial excavation has confirmed the survival of foundations beneath and around Priory House, which was constructed to the south of the church in 1765. The area surrounding the priory church and associated monastic structures was enclosed by a wall, forming a precinct about 4ha in area. This area is known precisely from a combination of documentary sources, standing remains and partial excavations. The precinct was constrained by existing development to the north and a mill-leat to the south and east. The course of the priory wall, which has been rebuilt over the years, includes fragments of original wall constructed of sandstone blocks. The precinct was entered via a gateway in the north west which survives as a sandstone built wall approximately 2m high. The adjacent Priory Cottage originally formed a gatehouse built by Prior Draper in 1520. Partial excavation within the southern precinct area has revealed the presence of two garderobes built against the priory wall to the north of the mill leat. The south western area of the precinct contained Place Mill, mentioned as a property of the priory in the Domesday Survey. The mill has stone foundations dating from the 12th century and was served by a millstream which diverted water from the River Avon approximately 1km to the north east. Immediately to the north east of the mill is a stone-built loading quay and bridge across the leat, both of which are included in the scheduling. Place Mill is the only water powered flour mill known to have served the priory and town during the medieval period. In 1539 it was converted into a fulling mill for the preparation of woollen cloth and the structure was extensively renovated. It was leter re-converted into a flour mill and continued in operation until 1908, when it became a boat store. The mill was restored in 1980 and opened to the public. The castle is situated to the north east of the priory and was constructed by Richard de Redvers around AD 1100. The Norman castle included a motte or earthen mound and an adjacent enclosure, known as a bailey. The motte mound has maximum dimensions of 50m in diameter and approximately 5m in height and may, originally, have supported a timber tower. The motte was enlarged to its present size in order to accommodate the stone keep or tower which was built after AD 1300. The bailey occupied the area to the north east of the motte and, originally, it will have been defined by banks and walls. Partial excavations have demonstrated the presence of buried archaeological deposits within this area. To the north east is the well preserved structure of the Norman great hall which dates from c.AD 1160. The hall is aligned north west by south east and has maximum dimensions of 18.5m by 7m. The structure is likely to have provided the main accommodation of the Norman castle and it continued in use over a long period. It later became the residence of the Constable and is now often known as 'The Constable's House'. Both the castle and The Constable's House are Listed Grade I and are in the care of the Secretary of State. The castle was besieged and captured by Walter de Pinkney in 1148. Subsequently, although re-fortified, it became a residence and played little strategic role in later conflicts. Despite playing little part in the Civil War, the castle was ordered to be demolished by Parliament in 1651, when its defences were levelled. The area has been used as public gardens for much of the 20th century. (Scheduling Report)
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:09

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact