100 Things to do in (and around) Bournemouth 27 – Christchurch Priory

The Saxon town of Christchurch is steeped in history. At its heart is the 11th Century Christchurch Priory. This church, dating from Norman times holds the title of largest parish church in England.

Christchurch Priory
Christchurch Priory

Getting There



There has been a church on the site of the priory for over 1300 years. Building work began in 1094.

Opening Times

You can visit the Priory to admire its grandeur and its spectacular stained glass windows between 10 am and 4 pm (as long as there is no service taking place) Monday to Saturday and between 12 and 4 pm on Sunday. Friendly ‘Welcomers’ are on hand to provide information about the priory and answer any questions.


Entry to the priory is free.


Guided tours may be possible if a Steward is available. Tours cost £6.50. In spring, other tours are offered. For example, you can climb the tower’s 176 stairs for spectacular views across Dorset and Special tours cost £7.50.

Christchurch Priory
Christchurch Priory


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

Tea Rooms

The tea rooms offer drinks and snacks and are open Monday to Saturday from 10 am until 4 pm.

Priory Gardens

To the rear of the church are the monastic lawns known as Priory Gardens, which offer views of the Priory as you walk along the river along Convent Walk.

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 wearing 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

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