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Christchurch – the 12th burh to be cited in the Burghal Hidage

Kingdom Type of Burh No. of Hides O.S. Grid Ref
Wessex Burghal Town 470 SZ15979252
Saxon Twynham was aligned along a High Street on a north-west to south-east axis adjacent to the western bank of the River Avon. The River Stour abutted the southern end of the town. The physical defences consisted of an earth rampart topped with a timber palisade and fronted by a ditch. In total the defences enclosed an area of 27 acres. This was recorded in the Burghal Hidage, an early tenth century document listing the fortified burhs, as having a value of 470 hides, which meant it was similar in size to Portchester or Hastings but significantly smaller than the vast burhs at Warwick, Wallingford and Winchester.
The town walls were rebuilt around AD 890 when the outward face of the earth rampart was riveted in stone. This strengthening is probably what led Æthelwold, nephew of King Alfred, to seize control of the town (along with nearby Wimborne Minster) following that monarch’s death in AD 899. As a member of the Royal family it is quite possible he was welcomed by the populace and entered unopposed before he then took control. The new King of Wessex, Edward the Elder, besieged the town prompting Æthelwold to flee in the night. The Saxon defences remained in place until slighted by King Cnut circa-1016 with significant sections of the wall levelled and the spoil thrown into the ditch.

Text from Christchurch Castle and Twynham Saxon Burh.

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