Christchurch Town Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are earthwork remains

NameChristchurch Town Wall
Alternative NamesTwyneham; Twinham; Twynam
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityDorset
1974 AuthorityDorset
Civil ParishChristchurch

Christchurch was known in the Anglo-Saxon and early Norman period as Twinham. It was one of the burhs listed in the "Burghal Hidage", and defended originally by a bank and ditch. Excavations have shown that a stone wall was added at a later date. The defences were levelled in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Twinham was probably a port of some strategic importance, but it never acquired much economic importance, and there is no evidence that it ever had a mint or a moneyer in the 10th century. (Penn; Wilson; Dowdell; Jarvis 1976)

The burh defences were excavated at a number of points during the 1970s and 1981-3, revealing distinct differences between those on the Northern, Eastern and Western sides of the town.

The Northern defences.

An early C10th burh 8.0-9.0 m wide extended the length of the Northern perimeter and at least in part comprised

natural sand bar material in the vicinity of site W6 and X10. A berm 4m wide lay in front of this, and a ditch 2m deep fronted the berm. In the 10th or 11th century a stone revetment was added to the inner face of the bank, and a second ditch placed 10m beyond the bank. There were at least six ditch phases, but all had been filled by the 12th/13th century.

Eastern defences.

Parallel shallow gullies delineated the burh in the late 9th or early 10th century. The defences then follow the same pattern as those on the north side except a single external ditch was recut once and the revetment is external to the burh.

Western defences.

These consisted of a reveted burh and ditch (Jarvis 1983; Davis).

Further excavation at 14 High St (Northern defences) in 1982 revealed a 25m length of the Saxon burh ditch which was cut originally c

900 AD, and was open for almost one hundred years, and purposely backfilled (Davis).

A watching brief at the King's Arms Hotel (SZ 15999273) located the burh, berm and ditch of the Eastern defences (Jarvis 1985).

The fortification can be assumed on archaeological and documentary grounds to have existed from the reign of Alfred the Great and was a 'major borough'. Twinham was assessed at 470 hides, equivalent to 1939 feet of defences (Hill and Rumbold). (PastScape)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSZ156928
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  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
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  • Davis, S.M. (ed), 1983, 'Excavations at Christchurch, Dorset, 1981 to 1983' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 105 p. 23-33
  • Dowdell, G., 1974, 'Late Saxon and Medieval Remains at Christchurch' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 96 p. 67


  • Dorset County Council, 2011, Dorset Historic Towns Survey: Christchurch online copy