Christchurch Priory and St Michael's Loft Museum
Christchurch Priory Church
St Michael's Loft Museum
Christchurch Priory Church (the Parish Church) is very much a living church. It is open every day not only for the usual daily services of Matins and Evensong, but from 10.00am to 5.00pm for pilgrims, tourists and visitors for personal prayer, relaxation or just viewing. The church and the Priory House are the centre for not only many parochial committees and activities but for exhibitions by local art societies.
St Michael's Loft, built over the Lady Chapel in the 15th century, was the last part of the fabric of the church to be completed. It is a consecrated chapel dedicated to St Michael, but the original use for which it was intended is unknown. Between 1662 and 1869 it was used first as a grammar school, and then as a private school run by the Vicar.
From here the schoolboys in the 18th century used to watch the smugglers bringing their contraband in carts across the marshes. There is a lens in the wall of the stairway on the south side through which a light could be shone as a signal to the smugglers on the marshes.
Exhibits at the Priory Museum include remains from Saxon times, items of medieval sculpture, a large tithe map of 1842, and various prints, paintings, photographs and items from the schoolroom. The climb up the 75 stone steps is well worth the effort, not only for the artefacts but also for the spectacular views out of each window.
Museum, Heritage site, Sacred space
Monday-Saturday 9.30am - 5.00pm April-October. 9.30am - 4.00pm November-March.
Sunday 2.15pm - 5.30pm subject to services
The Church is open from 10:00 – 17:00 daily. During term time there is usually an organ/choral recital at lunchtime on Thursdays (light refreshments are available in Priory House on these Thursdays.) No charge is made for entry but a donation (£2 per adult is suggested) towards the running costs and maintenance of the church is welcomed.
A small charge of £2 is made for entry to the tower - 120 feet high, and 176 steps up a spiral staircase - and visits there have to be supervised (for insurance reasons) by a guide. Magnificent views of the Isle of Wight, Purbeck and the surrounding district are obtained from the top.
The Museum is reached by 75 steps up a spiral staircase. It is open for Easter, closes briefly and is open again from May to October inclusive. Admission is 50p for an adult and 30p for students and children.
Educational School Visits at Christchurch Priory
Visits for school groups can study:
1. the historical background of the church.
2. the architecture from the Norman foundation to the later styles.
3. the life and work of the Augustinian monks and their role in the local community.
Guided tours, arranged in advance, can include visits to St Michael's Loft Museum and, for pupils over 10 years old, visits up the bell tower for fine views of the coast from the Isle of Wight to the Purbeck Hills.
How to obtain
Priory standard guided tours for school parties cost £1 per adult; 50p per child (not applicable to schools from within the parish); and £1 each for British and foreign students.
For further information or to arrange a tour, please contact the verger on 01202 485804 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org