In the year 1150, Pope Eugenious III established a priory at Twynham (now Christchurch) in the county of Southampton.

By the sixteenth century the priory owned not only the church, cloisters and lodgings and other adjacent buildings, but also other land and buildings in the area including the infirmary in Stour road and a 'mansion' at Somerford where the monks farmed the surrounding area for food.

Under the reign of Henry VIII when John Draper was the prior of the Priory at Twynham (as well as having the title of Bishop of Neopolitaine), the king took control of the churches from Rome and required duties from each church. The King considered that monasteries, priories, etc were becoming too rich (and not serving the people or sending sufficient funds to the King). It was then decided that all monasteries, etc were to be dissolved but churches serving the people may remain. Christchurch Priory was surrendered to the King on 28th November 1539. The King appointed Robert Southwell as commissioner of the dissolution. Robert Southwell came to Twynham in 1540 and drew up an 'instrument of surrender' document which identified which possessions of the Priory were to be surrendered to the crown, which buildings were to be declared redundant and which were to be allowed to remain. He declared debts to be paid and pensions to be given. John Draper was awarded a pension of £133.6s.8d per year andgiven possession of Somerford mansion (Somerford Grange) to be held by John Draper for his lifetime. After some pleadings and investigation it was decided that the main church buildings were to remain available for the people of Twynham and became Christ's Church under royal charter of 23rd October 1540. Several other buildings were declared redundant and demolished. Most treasure was surrendered to the crown.

John Draper still had the title of Bishop of Neopolitaine but no longer prior. He remained at Somerford Grange until he died on 29th September 1552.

Barrie Wells

Generated 10th July 2001

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