Christchurch Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameChristchurch Castle
Alternative NamesTwineham; Twynham; Twynam; Twinamburne; Cristiciria
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityDorset
1974 AuthorityDorset
Civil ParishChristchurch

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)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSZ159926
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  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1851, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 1 p. 38-9 (hall only) online copy
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  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 2 p. 178-80 online copy



  • Guy, Neil, 2005-6, 'Christchurch Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol 19 p. 201-4
  • Quiney, Anthony, 1999, 'Hall or Chamber? That Is the Question. The Use of Rooms in Post-Conquest Houses' Architectural History Vol. 42 p. 24-46
  • Hughes, Michael, 1989, 'Hampshire Castles and the Landscape 1066-1216' Landscape History Vol. 2 p. 27-60
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 312
  • Jarvis, K.,1983, 'Christchurch' Current Archaeology 8.6 p. 185-8
  • Davies, S.M., 1983, 'Excavations at Christchurch, Dorset, 1981 to 1983' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 105 p. 21-56
  • Rigold, S.E., 1966, 'Christchurch Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 123 p. 204-5
  • Thompson, M.W., 1960, 'Recent excavations in the keep of Farnham Castle, Surrey' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 4 p. 88n22 online copy
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1958, 'Domestic Planning from the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 115 p. 150-83 online copy
  • Wood, M., 1935, 'Norman Domestic Architecture' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 92 p. 167-242 esp 186-8 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 204 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1877, The Builder Vol. 35 p. 652-4 (reprinted MMA)

Guide Books

  • Hodges, Michael A., 2003, Christchurch Castle A Short History (Natula Publications)
  • Wood, 1956, Christchurch Castle (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Howlett, R. (ed), 1886, Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I (Rolls series 82) Vol. 3 p. 135 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 229


  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS
  • Dorset County Council, 2011, Dorset Historic Towns Survey: Christchurch Download copy
  • The Christchurch Antiquarians, 2006, Christchurch Castle, Christchurch, Dorset; report on survey work July-October 2004 Click for information