A coastal town which grew up on the edge of Christchurch Harbour where the Rivers Stour and Avon enter the harbour from the north and west.
Today Christchurch is part of the developed conurbation of Poole and Bournemouth but retains its separateness and its character of small market town and its coastal focus. Christchurch is a well loved tourist destination, in addition to being an attractive place for retirees.
Smuggling in Christchurch and the Battle of Mudeford
Smuggling was one of Christchurch’s most lucrative industries during the 18th and 19th centuries due to easy access to the New Forest and the difficult harbour entrance which acted as a barrier to customs cutters.Many townspeople were involved in this illegal trade and large quantities of wealth were accumulated. In 1784 a confrontation between a gang of local smugglers and Customs and Excise officers led to the Battle of Mudeford, in which a Royal Navy officer was killed and a smuggler subsequently executed.
Clock making in Christchurch
Industry came to Christchurch in the late 1790’s when fusee chains for watches and clocks were manufactured in workshops in Christchurch. The manufacturers in Christchurch were the pre-eminent suppliers of these essential watch and clock parts for the whole of Britain. So Christchurch played a small but important part in the search for an accurate method of calculating longitude at sea and keeping ships safe from ship wreck, solved by the invention of the chronometer or “sea watch”, perfected after many experiments and trials, by Thomas Harrington in London in 1773. However, by 1875, the chains were no longer required due to changes in watch designs, and the factories in Christchurch were closed.
The railway arrived in 1847, via the Corkscrew Railway. The nearest station to Christchurch, at that time, was Christchurch Road in Holmesley, with an omnibus service to take passengers the last few miles to Christchurch. The main line came into Christchurch in 1883. These developments in the late 1800’s led to an increase in the previous small amount of tourism, encouraged by King George III who visited in the 1790’s.
Christchurch became, and still is, a holiday destination as well as a notable retirement community.