Visit Colchester and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Colchester, Essex. Colchester calls itself “Britain's oldest recorded town” and in fact, though in the 1st cent. B.C. it has been settled by the Trinovantes and named Camulodunum, the area has traces of settlements going back as far as the Bronze Age, c. 1000 B.C. In the early years of the Christian era it was the capital city of Cunobelin who reigned over South East England. In A.D. 43 the Romans invaded and it was here that Claudius received the surrender of the British kings. The first Roman city in this island was founded here, but it fell to Queen Boadicea despite its strengthened defences when she made her historic challenge to the might of the Romans. Though her armies had slain 70,000 people she was in the end defeated and the Roman city rose again to become a walled city and one of the most important Roman centres in Britain.
Parts of the walls of this ancient town still stand and within them have been found the remains of almost 100 buildings and relics. From this wall the Balkerne Gateway still survives as a ruined arch next door to an inn in Balkerne Lane where it was originally the main exit from the town to London and the west. When the Romans left, the town inevitably decayed and was the scene of invasions by the Anglo-Saxons, the Danes and finally the Normans.
The Normans found in Colchester a flourishing town of some 2,000 persons and its position made it an obvious site for a major fortress. Though the precise date of the commencement of building is not known for certain it is usually put at c. 1085. Though only the keep survives, its massive proportions convey an idea of the size of the original building. It was the largest keep built in Europe, almost 100 ft high and 150 ft in length by 110 ft in width. At the base the walls are more than 12 ft thick. Its great size is no doubt due to the fact that it was built upon the vaults of the great Roman Temple of Claudius.
Shortly after the castle was built St John's Abbey was founded just south of the original Roman walls. All that remains now is the 15th-century gatehouse with its pinnacled towers on either side. Not far from St John's is St Botolph's Priory founded shortly after St John's as the first English Augustinian house. The remains of the priory are no less splendid than the castle itself. The great doorway with its rich carvings leads into the open nave bounded by the massive columns supporting tiers of Norman arches. Though the building itself is almost 900 years old the bricks with which it is made are more than twice that age, being made by the Romans themselves. Destroyed during the siege of 1648, until which time it was the principal church of the town, the priory has as neighbour a new church built in 1837.
Earlier than the priory is the tower of Holy Trinity Church with its Anglo-Saxon west door close by Trinity Street. It is in an unknown grave here that one of the greatest of Elizabethan composers lies buried. William Wilbye lived in a house close to the church for the last ten years of his life and was buried there in 1638. His madrigals have been sung for the past 300 years or more. Inside the church is the alabaster carving in memory of William Gilbert, Elizabeth I's physician, the first man to use the word electricity and who used to amuse her with his electrical experiments. Tymperleys, the house in which he lived, may be seen through the archway facing the church in Trinity Street.
Nearby islands: Mersea Island
Nearby cities: Ipswich
Nearby towns: Bocking, Braintree, Burnham-on-Crouch, Clacton-on-Sea, Frinton-on-Sea, Harwich, Halstead, Maldon, Manningtree, Sudbury, Witham, West Mersea, Wivenhoe
Nearby villages: Abberton, Aldham, Alresford, Ardleigh, Birch, Brightlingsea, Bures, Copford, Dedham, East Bergholt, Fingringhoe, Fordham, Great Bentley, Great Bromley, Great Horkesley, Great Tey, Great Wigborough, Inworth, Kelvedon, Lamarsh, Lawford, Layer de la Haye, Layer Marney, Lexden, Little Bentley, Little Bromley, Little Wigborough, Manningtree, Marks Tey, Messing, Mile End, Mount Bures, Nayland, Peldon, Rowhedge, Salcott, Stanway, Stoke-by-Nayland, Thorrington, Tiptree, Tolleshunt Knights, Virley, Wakes Colne, West Bergholt, Wissington, Wormingford
Have you decided to visit Colchester or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Colchester bed and breakfast (a Colchester B&B or Colchester b and b)
- a Colchester guesthouse
- a Colchester hotel (or motel)
- a Colchester self-catering establishment, or
- other Colchester accommodation