100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 10 – Walking Tour of Christchurch

The Saxon town of Christchurch is steeped in history. Nestled between the coast and the New Forest, and between the Rivers Avon and Stour, it is a pretty town with plenty to explore.

Christchurch Priory
Christchurch Priory

It is situated just off the A338, some 5 miles east of Bournemouth. There are several Pay & Display car parks, which tend to get more expensive the closer you get to the harbour. It is easily accessible by public transport, with direct trains from London and Bournemouth. I usually park at Bank Car Park; this avoids congestion if the town is busy – which happens in summer, as visitors flock to the south coast. Parking costs £1 for 2 hours. This is sufficient time for a meander around town and pop into M&S to pick up some lunch as well.

Scooters at Christchurch
Scooters at Christchurch

This tour starts at Bank car park, behind Marks & Spencer. In the alleyway next to the store, you can find this wonderful pigeon mosaic.

Christchurch Pigeon Mosaic
Pigeon Mosaic

Old Town Hall

Turn right and walk down the High Street. On the other side of the road is Saxon Square and the Old Town Hall.

Christchurch Old Town Hall
Old Town Hall

Regent Centre

On the right is the Regent Centre. This beautifully renovated Art Deco theatre and cinema recently celebrated its 90th birthday. It also houses the Tourist Information Centre, so why not pop in and find out what’s on.

Christchurch Regent Centre
Regent Centre

Christchurch Priory

PlaceChristchurch Priory
Opening Times10-4
PriceFree

At the roundabout, continue into Church Street to Christchurch Priory. This church, dating from Norman times holds the title of largest parish church in England. Building work began in 1094.

Christchurch Priory
Christchurch Priory

You can visit the church between 10 and 4 (as long as there is no service taking place) to admire its grandeur and its spectacular stained glass windows. Friendly ‘Welcomers’ are on hand to provide information about the priory and answer any questions. Guided tours can be arranged in advance on the website (£6).

Nave

The Norman arches of the nave tower above you. It is believed to have been raised to its current height in 1350.

Christchurch Priory Nave
Inside Christchurch Priory – Nave

Lady Chapel

The 15th Century Lady Chapel has a 19th Century stained glass window depicting the life of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Christchurch Priory Lady Chapel
Inside Christchurch Priory – Lady Chapel

The Miraculous Beam

At the rear of the church you will find The Miraculous Beam. According to legend, when the church was built in the town of Twynham, a mysterious carpenter appeared and helped to cut timber beams for the room. One day, someone cut a beam too short. The next day, the beam had miraculously lengthened. The mysterious carpenter was never seen again… It was believed that this carpenter was in fact Jesus, so the town changed its name to Christchurch.

The Miraculous Beam Christchurch Priory
The Miraculous Beam

Red House Museum

PlaceRed House Museum
Opening Times10-4 (Wed-Sat) 12-4 (Sun)
PriceFree

Exit the church and turn left, which brings you to Church Lane. In front of you is the Red House Museum. Housed in the former workhouse, the museum documents the history of Christchurch. When a new, bigger workhouse was built the ‘Red House’ ended up in the hands of avid collector Herbert Druitt, who turned it into his own private museum.

Christchurch Old Workhouse plaque
Old Workhouse plaque

Church Lane

Church Lane looks like its climbed right off the lid of a chocolate box, with some lovely old houses. My favourite is Sundial Cottage.

Sundial Cottage Church Lane Christchurch
Sundial Cottage Church Lane

Place Mill

Turn into Quay Road and walk to the end, where you will find Place Mill, inbetween the River Avon and the River Stour. As you will see from the blue plaque, it was mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086, with a value of 30 shillings a year. It no longer operates as a mill. It was repurposed as an art gallery, but has not yet reopened post-Covid.

Place Mill Christchurch
Place Mill

The Quomps

Christchurch quay, otherwise known as The Quomps and the bandstand are in front of you. This is a hive of activity in summer when events such at the Christchurch Food Festival and Stomin on the Quomps jazz festival take place.

Christchurch bandstand
Bandstand

Priory Gardens

Turn round and turn right at the gap in the wall just past Place Mill, into Priory Gardens. Follow Convent Walk through the gardens.

Christchurch Priory Gardens
Priory Gardens

Convent Walk

This walk follows the edge of Mill Stream, past the rear of the Priory, ending at the foot of the ruins of Christchurch Castle.

Convent Walk

If you look up at the church, you will notice some recently renovated gargoyles. These were completed in 2021 and have been brought up to day with modern day images. The first time I looked up and spotted a gargoyle in a surgical face mask I thought I was hallucinating! The sculpture was inspired by architect Columba Cook’s niece, an intensive care doctor. It’s quite high up, so here’s a close-up picture I borrowed.

Christchurch Priory NHS gargoyle

Also in Convent Walk, is this beautiful Remembrance Bench.

Christchurch Remembrance Bench
Remembrance Bench

Christchurch Castle

Pass through the gap in the wall to reach the caste. The castle ruins date from the 11th Century. To be more accurate, this is just a tower which remains from what would have been a much larger castle.

Christchurch Castle
Christchurch Castle

An English Heritage signage gives a brief history of the castle. It was begun by Richard de Redvers, a Norman baron who accompanied William the Conqueror to England, in about 1100. During the English Civil War, Parliamentarian troops attacked and took Christchurch, a Royalist town. In 1645 a troop of 1,000 Royalists counter attacked Christchurch, forcing the Parliamentarians to seek refuge in the castle. They retained both the castle and town throughout the rest of the war. Its defences were dismantled by order of Parliament in 1651. Local people helped themselves to the building materials and the castle fell to ruin.

The Great Tower

Norman House Ruins

Next to the castle are the Norman House ruins. This addition to the castle was built in the mid-12th century, providing luxury accommodation for de Redvers’ nephew, The Earl of Devon, and his family.

Norman House Ruins
Norman House Ruins

Stocks

In the castle grounds you can find the old village stocks. I couldn’t resist having a go!

Christchurch stocks

Ducking Stool

Cross Castle Street into the alleyway opposite, this will bring you to the Ducking Stool. I couldn’t resist having a go!

Millhams Lane

Turn into Millhams Lane, past the multicoloured terraced houses.

Millhams Lane Christchurch
Millhams Lane

Saxon Square

At the end of the road, an alleyway will bring you into the rear of Saxon Square.

Saxon Square Christchurch
Saxon Square

6 thoughts on “100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 10 – Walking Tour of Christchurch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s