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Christchurch is a borough and town in the county of Dorset on the south coast of England. The town adjoins Bournemouth in the west and the New Forest lies to the east. Historically within Hampshire, it joined Dorset with the reorganisation of local government in 1974 and is the most easterly borough in the county. It covers an area of 19.5 square miles (51 km2) and has a population of approximately 45,000, making it the fourth most populous town in the county.
Christchurch was founded in the 7th 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 by the Parliamentarian Army during the English Civil War. 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 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.