Christchurch, Dorset

Christchurch (/ˈkrs(t)ɜːr/) is a town and civil parish[2] in Dorset on the south coast of England. The town covers an area of 19.5 square miles (51 km2) and had a population of 48,368 in 2013.[3] It adjoins Bournemouth to the west, with the New Forest to the east. Part of the historic county of Hampshire, Christchurch was a borough within the administrative county of Dorset from 1974 until 2019, when it became part of the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole unitary authority.

Christchurch Priory, the longest Parish Church in the UK, seen from its extensive churchyard.
Location of former Christchurch borough (dark red) within Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (red)
Coordinates: 50.73°N 1.78°W / 50.73; -1.78
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth West England
Ceremonial countyDorset
Historic countyHampshire
Unitary authorityBournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
  MP:Christopher Chope (C)
  Total19.5 sq mi (50.4 km2)
 (mid-2019 est.)
  Density2,350/sq mi (909/km2)
Time zoneUTC+0 (Greenwich Mean Time)
Post town
Area code(s)01202
ISO 3166-2GB-DOR (Dorset)
ONS code19UC (ONS)
E07000048 (GSS)
OS grid referenceSZ156923

Founded in the seventh century at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Stour which flow into Christchurch Harbour, the town was originally named Twynham but became known as Christchurch following the construction of the priory in 1094. The town developed into an important trading port, and was fortified in the 9th century. Further defences were added in the 12th century with the construction of a castle, which was destroyed during the English Civil War by the Parliamentarian Army. During the 18th and 19th centuries smuggling flourished in Christchurch and became one of the town's most lucrative industries. The town was heavily fortified during the Second World War as a precaution against an expected invasion and in 1940 an Airspeed factory was established on the town's airfield which manufactured aircraft for the Royal Air Force.

The town's harbour, beaches, nature reserves and historically important buildings have made Christchurch a popular tourist destination attracting some 1.5 million visitors a year. Bournemouth Airport, an international airport which handles approximately 800,000 passengers a year, was located within the borough boundary at Hurn. The airport's industrial park contains a number of aerospace and engineering businesses and is one of the largest employment sites in Dorset. Christchurch is a popular destination for retirees, and has one of the oldest populations in the country, with 30 per cent of residents aged over 65.