About this church
Christchurch Priory is a magnificent mediaeval church set at the centre of the town of Christchurch.
In 1094 Ranulf Flambard, a chief minister of King William II, began building a Norman church on the site of the old Saxon Priory. Work continued under his successors and by about 1150 it there was a basic Norman cruciform church and probably a central tower. Building work continued and in the 13th century the nave aisles were vaulted and the clerestory built in the Early English style. By 1350 the nave roof had been lifted and a spire may have been built. The Perpendicular style Lady Chapel was completed and vaulted early in the 15th century, its pendant vault perhaps being the first of its kind in England.
It is reputed that about 1415 the central Norman tower and spire either collapsed or was taken down. The old Norman quire was rebuilt in the 16th century, creating the Great Quire of today with its pendant and lantern vaulted ceiling. A new tower was built in 1470/80. The large Salisbury Chantry and the Draper Chantry were built in the ornate Tudor Renaissance style early in 1529. It was the last major work before the dissolution of the Priory in 1539. The church was much as it appears today.
At the dissolution it is said that the King intended to pull down the church as well as the Priory's monastic buildings. But in response to a plea from the townspeople he relented and granted the church and churchyard to the churchwardens and inhabitants of Christchurch. A corporation known as 'The Sixteen' was formed which became responsible for the temporal and ecclesiastical affairs of the parish.
Post Reformation, many additions have been made including the lath and plaster stucco vaulting in the nave in 1822, the installation of the Royal British Legion's Chapel of Remembrance in 1922 and the Norman window depicting St Francis of Assisi and St Anne, originally from Jumièges Abbey in Normandy.