Colchester /ˈkoʊltʃɛstər/ ( listen) is an historic
market town and the largest settlement within the borough of
Colchester in the county of Essex.
At the time of the 2011 UK Census, it had a population of 121,859,
marking a considerable rise from the previous census and with
considerable development since 2001 and ongoing building plans; it has
been named as one of Britain's fastest growing towns. As the oldest
recorded Roman town in Britain,
Colchester is claimed to be the oldest
town in Britain. It was for a time the capital of Roman Britain,
and is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network.
Colchester is some 50 miles (80 km) northeast of London and is
connected to the capital by the A12 road and its railway station which
is on the Great Eastern Main Line. It is seen as a popular town for
commuters, and is less than 30 miles (48 km) away from
Stansted Airport and 20 miles (32 km) from the passenger ferry
port of Harwich.
Colchester is home to
Colchester Castle and
Colchester United Football
Club. It is represented by a Conservative Member of Parliament, Will
Quince, who was elected at the 2015 general election. The correct
demonym is Colcestrian. The River Colne runs through the town.
2.2 Celtic origins
2.3 Roman Colchester
2.4 Sub-Roman and Saxon Colchester
2.5 Medieval and Tudor periods
2.6 17th century
2.7 Victorian Colchester
2.8 20th century and later
7.1.1 Gosbecks Archaeological Park
8.1 Roman Walls
8.2 "Jumbo" water tower
9 Twin towns
10.1 Secondary education
10.2.1 Private schools
12 References in literature
13 In popular culture
15 See also
17 External links
There is a variety of theories about the derivation of the name
Colchester. Some contend that is derived from the
Latin words Colonia
(referring to a type of Roman settlement with rights equivalent to
those of Roman citizens, one of which was believed to have been
founded in the vicinity of Colchester) and Castra, meaning
fortifications (referring to the town's walls, the oldest in
Britain). The earliest forms of the name
Colenceaster and Colneceastre from the 10th century, with the modern
Colchester being found in the 15th century. In this way
of interpreting the name, the River Colne which runs through the town
takes its name from Colonia as well.
Cologne (German Köln) also
gained its name from a similar etymology (from its Roman name Colonia
Claudia Ara Agrippinensium).
Other etymologists are confident that the Colne's name is of Celtic
(pre-Roman) origin, sharing its origin with several other rivers Colne
or Clun around Britain, and that
Colchester is derived from Colne and
Castra. Ekwall went as far as to say "it has often been held that
Colchester contains as first element [Latin] colonia ... this
derivation is ruled out of court by the fact that Colne is the name of
several old villages situated a good many miles from
Colchester and on
the Colne. The identification of Colonia with
The popular association of the name with
King Coel has no academic
Main article: History of Colchester
The gravel hill upon which
Colchester is built was formed in the
Middle Pleistocene period, and was shaped into a terrace between the
Anglian glaciation and the
Ipswichian glaciation by an ancient
precursor to the River Colne. From these deposits beneath the town
have been found
Palaeolithic flint tools, including at least six
Acheulian handaxes. Further flint tools made by hunter gatherers
living in the Colne Valley during the
Mesolithic have been discovered,
including a tranchet axe from Middlewick. In the 1980s an
archaeological inventory showed that over 800 shards of pottery from
Bronze Age and early
Iron Age have been found within
Colchester, along with many examples of worked flint. This
included a pit found at Culver Street containing a ritually placed
Neolithic grooved ware pot, as well as find spots containing later
Deverel-Rimbury bucket urns.
Colchester is surrounded by Neolithic
Bronze Age monuments that pre-date the town, including a Neolithic
henge at Tendring, large
Bronze Age barrow cemeteries at Dedham and
Langham, and a larger example at
Brightlingsea consisting of a cluster
of 22 barrows.
Colchester is said to be the oldest recorded town in Britain on the
grounds that it was mentioned by Pliny the Elder, who died in AD
79, although the Celtic name of the town, Camulodunon appears on
coins minted by tribal chieftain
Tasciovanus in the period 20-10BC.
Roman conquest of Britain
Roman conquest of Britain it was already a centre of power
Cunobelin – known to Shakespeare as
Cymbeline – king of the
Catuvellauni (c.5 BC – AD 40), who minted coins there. Its
Celtic name, Camulodunon, variously represented as CA, CAM, CAMV,
CAMVL and CAMVLODVNO on the coins of Cunobelinus, means 'the fortress
of [the war god] Camulos'. During the 30s AD Camulodunon
controlled a large swathe of Southern and Eastern Britain, with
Cunobelin called "King of the Britons" by Roman writers.
Camulodunon is considered one of many possible sites around Britain
for the legendary (perhaps mythical)
Camelot of King Arthur.
Main article: Camulodunum
Soon after the
Roman conquest of Britain
Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43, a Roman legionary
fortress was established, the first in Britain. Later, when the
Roman frontier moved outwards and the twentieth legion had moved to
the west (c.AD 49),
Camulodunum became a colonia named in a
second-century inscription as Colonia Victricensis. This contained a
large and elaborate Temple to the Divine Claudius, the largest
classical-style temple in Britain, as well as at least seven other
Colchester is home to two of the five
Roman theatres found in Britain, the one at Gosbecks (site of the Iron
Age royal farmstead) being the largest in Britain, able to seat
Camulodunum served as a provincial Roman capital of Britain, but was
attacked and destroyed during Boudica's rebellion in AD 61.
Sometime after the destruction, London became the capital of the
province of Britannia. Colchester's town walls c. 3,000 yd.
long were built c.65–80 A.D. when the Roman town was rebuilt after
Boudicca rebellion. In 2004,
Colchester Archaeological Trust
discovered the remains of a Roman Circus (chariot race track)
underneath the Garrison in Colchester, a unique find in Britain.
The Roman town of Camulodunum, officially known as Colonia
Victricensis, reached its peak in the Second and Third centuries
A hoard of jewellery, known as The Fenwick Hoard, has been discovered
in the town centre.  The director of Colchester
Archaeological Trust, Dr Philip Crummy, described the hoard as being
of "national importance and one of the finest ever uncovered in
Sub-Roman and Saxon Colchester
There is evidence of hasty re-organisation of Colchester's defences
around 268–82 AD, followed later, during the fourth century, by the
blocking of the Balkerne Gate. Dr. John Morris (1913 – June
1977) the English historian who specialised in the study of the
institutions of the
Roman Empire and the history of Sub-Roman Britain,
suggested in his book "The Age of Arthur" (1973) that as the
descendants of Romanised Britons looked back to a golden age of peace
and prosperity under Rome the name "Camelot" of Arthurian legend was
probably a reference to Camulodunum, the capital of
Britannia in Roman
The archaeologist Sir
Mortimer Wheeler was the first to propose that
the lack of early Anglo-Saxon finds in a triangle between London,
St Albans could indicate a 'sub-Roman triangle' where
British rule continued after the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.
Since then excavations have revealed some early Saxon occupation,
including a fifth-century wooden hut built on the ruins of a Roman
house in present-day Lion Walk. Archaeological excavations have shown
that public buildings were abandoned, and is very doubtful whether
Colchester survived as a settlement with any urban characteristics
after the sixth century.
The chronology of its revival is obscure. But the ninth-century
Historia Brittonum, attributed to Nennius, mentions the town, which it
calls Cair Colun, in a list of the thirty most important cities in
Colchester was in the area assigned to the
c.880, and remained in Danish hands until 917 when it was besieged and
recaptured by the army of Edward the Elder. The tenth-century
Saxons called the town Colneceastre, which is directly equivalent to
the Cair Colun of 'Nennius'. The tower of Holy Trinity Church is
late Saxon work.
Medieval and Tudor periods
Colchester Castle, completed c.1100 AD
Medieval Colchester's main landmark is
Colchester Castle, which is an
11th-century Norman keep, and built on top of the vaults of the old
Roman temple. There are notable medieval ruins in Colchester,
including the surviving gateway of the
Benedictine abbey of St. John
the Baptist (known locally as "St. John's Abbey"), and the ruins of
Augustinian priory of
St. Botolph (known locally as "St. Botolph's
Priory"). Many of Colchester's parish churches date from this period.
Colchester was granted its first royal charter by King
Richard I (Richard the Lionheart.) The charter was granted at Dover
with the king about to embark on one of his many journeys away from
England. The borough celebrated the 800th anniversary of its charter
Colchester developed rapidly during the later 14th century as a centre
of the woollen cloth industry, and became famous in many parts of
Europe for its russets (fabrics of a grey-brown colour). This allowed
the population to recover exceptionally rapidly from the effects of
the Black Death, particularly by immigration into the town. Rovers
Tye Farm, now a pub on Ipswich Road, has been documented as being
established by 1353.
Colchester in 1500AD
By the 'New Constitutions' of 1372, a borough council was instituted;
the two bailiffs who represented the borough to the king were now
expected to consult sixteen ordinary councillors and eight auditors
(later called aldermen). Even though Colchester's fortunes were more
mixed during the 15th century, it was still a more important place by
the 16th century than it had been in the 13th. In 1334 it would not
have ranked among England's wealthiest fifty towns, to judge from the
taxation levied that year. By 1524, however, it ranked twelfth, as
measured by its assessment to a lay subsidy.
Between 1550 and 1600, a large number of weavers and clothmakers from
Flanders emigrated to
Colchester and the surrounding areas. They
were famed for the production of "Bays and Says" cloths which were
woven from wool and are normally associated with
Baize and Serge
although surviving examples show that they were rather different from
their modern equivalents. An area in
Colchester town centre is
still known as the Dutch Quarter and many buildings there date from
the Tudor period. During this period
Colchester was one of the most
prosperous wool towns in England, and was also famed for its
oysters. Flemish refugees in the 1560s brought innovations that
revived the local cloth trade, establishing the Dutch Bay Hall for
quality control of the textiles for which
famous. The old Roman wall runs along Northgate Street in the
In the reign of "Bloody Mary" (1553-1558)
Colchester became a centre
of Protestant "heresy" and in consequence at least 19 local people
were burned at the stake at the Castle, at first in front, later
within the walls. They are commemorated on a tablet near the altar of
St Peter's Church. (Sources-- John Foxe "Book of Martyrs"; Mark
Byford: The Process of Reformation in a Tudor Town)
The place of the execution of
Charles Lucas and George Lisle.
The town saw the start of the
Stour Valley riots of 1642, when the
town house of
John Lucas, 1st Baron Lucas of Shenfield
John Lucas, 1st Baron Lucas of Shenfield was attacked by
a large crowd. In 1648, during the Second English Civil War, a
Royalist army led by Lord Goring entered the town. A pursuing
Parliamentary army led by
Thomas Fairfax and
Henry Ireton surrounded
the town for eleven and a half weeks, a period known as the Siege of
Colchester. It started on 13 June. The Royalists surrendered in the
late summer (on 27 August Lord Goring signed the surrender document in
the Kings Head Inn) and
Charles Lucas and George Lisle were executed
in the grounds of
Colchester Castle. A small obelisk marks the
spot where they fell.
Daniel Defoe mentions in A tour through
England and Wales that the
town lost 5259 people to the plague in 1665, "more in proportion
than any of its neighbours, or than the city of London". By the
time he wrote this in 1722, however, he estimated its population to be
around 40,000 (including "out-villages").
Between 1797 and 1815
Colchester was the HQ of the Army's Eastern
Ditrict, had a garrison of up to 6,000, and played a main role in
defence against a threatened French or Dutch invasion, At various
times it was the base of such celebrated officers as Lord Cornwallis,
Generals Sir James Craig and David Baird, and Captain William Napier.
It was in a state of alarm during the invasion threat of 1803/4, a
period well chronicled by the famous contemporary local author Jane
Taylor. (Sources--Records of Army's Eastern Command at National
Archives, Kew; Julian Foynes "East Anglia against the Tricolor
1793-1815, Poppyland Press, 2016)
Colchester is noted for its Victorian architecture. Significant
landmarks include the
Town Hall and the
Jumbo Water Tower.
In 1884, the town was struck by the
Colchester earthquake, estimated
to have been 4.7 on the
Richter Scale causing extensive regional
Paxman diesels business has been associated with
1865 when James Noah Paxman founded a partnership with the brothers
Henry and Charles Davey ('Davey, Paxman, and Davey') and opened the
Standard Ironworks. In 1925, Paxman produced its first spring
injection oil engine and joined the English Electric Diesel Group in
1966 – later becoming part of the GEC Group. Since the 1930s the
Paxman company's main business has been the production of diesel
20th century and later
A map of
Colchester from 1940.
In the early 20th century
Colchester lobbied to be the seat for a new
England diocese for Essex, to be split off from the existing
Diocese of Rochester. The bid was unsuccessful, with county town
Chelmsford forming the seat of the new diocese. T
In the 2nd World War Colchester's main significance lay in its
infantry and light-anti-aircraft training units, and in the Paxman
factory, which supplied a large proportion of the engines for British
submarines and landing craft. Occasionally bombed by stray single
German aircraft in 1940 and 1941, in 1942 more serious attempts to hit
its industries were made by the Luftwaffe. None of these attacks hit
its target, but in the 11 August raid bombs exploded on Severall's
psychiatric hospital, killing 38 elderly patients. In February 1944 a
single raider caused a huge fire in the St Botolph's area which gutted
warehouses, shops and part of Paxman's
Britannia Works. The total
wartime bombing death toll in the borough was 55. (Sources:--Eastern
Command, 11 Corps, various divisional, brigade and battalion, and
Colchester Garrison war diaries in WO 166 series at National Archives,
Kew; 4 Civil Defence Region reports in HO 192/193 series at National
Archives; CW 1 Police Incident records at
Essex County Record Office).
The University of
Essex was established on the outskirts of the town
Wivenhoe Park in 1961. The £22.7M eight-mile A120 Colchester
Eastern Bypass opened in June 1982.
Colchester and the surrounding area is currently undergoing
significant regeneration, including controversial greenfield
residential development in Mile End and Braiswick. The town's
Colchester United, moved into a brand new stadium at
Cuckoo Farm in 2008.
Camulodunum and Colonia Victricensis forms one of 38 sites
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site status, with a shortlist to be submitted
UNESCO for consideration in 2011. The town was one of
twenty-five across the UK that applied for city status to mark the
Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II
Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012. It was unsuccessful.
Main article: Climate of the United Kingdom
Colchester is in one of the driest regions of the
United Kingdom with
average annual precipitation at 635 mm (25.0 inches), although
among the wetter places in Essex.
Colchester is generally regarded as
Oceanic climate (
Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification Cfb) like
the rest of the United Kingdom. Its easterly position within the
British Isles makes
Colchester less prone to Atlantic depressions and
weather fronts but more prone to droughts.
This is because, like most areas in South-East England, Colchester's
weather is influenced more by Continental weather patterns than by
Atlantic weather systems. This leads to a dry climate compared to the
rest of the UK all year round and occasional (relative) extremes of
temperatures during the year (occasional high 20°Cs/low 30°Cs during
the summer) and quite a few nights below freezing during the winter
months (daytime high temperatures are seldom below freezing). Any
rainfall that does come from Atlantic weather systems is usually
light, but a few heavy showers and thunderstorms can take place during
the summer. Snow falls on average 13 days a year during winter and
early spring.
The highest temperature recorded in
Colchester was 36.1 °C
(97 °F) in August 2003 (during the 2003 European heat wave), and
the lowest was −9.4 °C (15 °F) in December 2010.
Climate data for Colchester
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Source: 1981–2010 estimated average (records began in 1988) for COL
Colchester NE 2
The military corrective training centre
Colchester has been an important military garrison since the Roman
Colchester Garrison is currently home to the 16th Air Assault
Brigade. The Army's only military corrective training centre, known
colloquially within the forces and locally as "The Glasshouse" after
the original military prison in Aldershot, is in Berechurch Hall
Road, on the outskirts of Colchester. The centre holds servicemen
and women from all three services who are sentenced to serve periods
From 1998 to 2008, the garrison area of the town underwent massive
redevelopment. A lot of the Ministry of Defence land was sold for
private housing development and parts of the garrison were moved. Many
parts of the garrison now stand empty awaiting the second phase of the
Colchester has been one of 12 places in the UK where Royal
Salutes are fired to mark Royal anniversaries and visits by foreign
heads of state. From 2009, these salutes have taken place in Castle
BFBS Radio broadcasts from studios on the base on 107.0FM as part of
its UK Bases network
Colchester coat of arms.
Colchester Politics, Mayor of Colchester, Colchester
(UK Parliament constituency), and
Colchester local elections
The Member of Parliament for
Will Quince of the
Colchester Borough Council
Colchester Borough Council is the local authority. Control of the
borough council has passed between the Conservatives and Liberal
Democrats, or has been under no overall control, in recent years. The
political composition of the council as of the 2015 election:
Conservative – 27 seats
Liberal Democrats – 20 seats
Labour – 9 seats
Highwoods & Stanway Independents – 4 seats
The town is also represented on
Essex County Council, containing six
County electoral divisions. Villages within the borough are
represented by various parish councils. The urban area of Colchester
contains only one parish council (
Myland Community Council) with the
Town being unparished.
The seat of local government is
Town Hall, a late-Victorian
baroque edifice by John Belcher. It is the latest in a series of local
government buildings to have stood on the same site since the 12th
century. The 162-foot clock tower was presented by James Paxman; it is
topped by a figure of St Helena, who is linked by legend to the town.
The town's former MP, Sir Bob Russell, has held the ceremonial role of
High Steward of Colchester since 2015.
See Demographics of
Colchester houses several museums. The Castle Museum, found within
Colchester Castle, features an extensive exhibit on Roman Colchester.
Nearby are Hollytrees Museum, a social history museum with children's
exhibits in the former home of Charles Gray, and the town's Natural
History Museum, located in the former All Saints' Church. The
Colchester Archaeological Trust have opened a visitor centre and
museum at the former Cavalry Barracks to display finds from the Roman
Circus, with replicas and models of the circus, as well as finds from
the nearby Roman cemeteries. In 2014 brick and marble columns from
the monumental façade of the precinct of the Temple of Claudius were
discovered behind the High Street, with plans to make them visible to
Gosbecks Archaeological Park
Gosbecks Archaeological Park is situated south-west of the town, and
consists of a preserved Roman theatre and Romano-British temple marked
out on the ground. The park was the location of a large
Iron Age farmstead, known as "Cunobelin's farm" after
Catuvellauni king, whose coin moulds were found in large
quantities at the site. In the Roman period the site was the
location of a large Romano-British temple and Britain's largest Roman
theatre, twice as large as the one in the town. The park is also
close to the post-conquest Stanway burials, a Roman fort and the
still-extant defensive earthworks of the
Iron Age fortress (the most
extensive of their kind in Britain). The
Iron Age earthwork ditch
and bank defences are open to the public as wooded parkland.
'Balkerne Star' designed by Anne Schwegmann-Fielding, Balkerne
Colchester – made in 2006 and inspired by a Roman mosaic
flooring found in Colchester.
Opened in 1972, the Mercury Theatre is a repertory theatre. Located
Colchester Arts Centre, a multi-function arts venue
located in the former St Mary-at-the-Walls church, and home of the
Colchester Beer Festival. The Headgate Theatre is also located in
firstsite is a contemporary art organisation, based in the Visual Arts
Facility, which was designed by Rafael Viñoly, and opened in
September 2011, at a total cost of approximately £25.5 million,
£9 million more than the original estimate.
The Minories houses The Minories Galleries, which is managed by
Colchester Institute and presents contemporary exhibitions by artists
from the region. The building is owned by the Victor Batte-Lay
There are several other bars with live music in the town..
In 2009, an art collective called 'Slack Space' took up some of the
closed-down shops in the town and converted them into art galleries
with the hope of promoting art and design in the town. The Colchester
School of Art and Design is based in the
Colchester Institute near the
centre of the town.
Colchester Film Festival the largest film festival in
place annually in October showcasing a selection of new feature and
short films by filmmakers from around the world.
The town's link with football had begun with the amateur club
Colchester Town, formed in 1867 and dissolved in 1937. They were
succeeded by professional club
Colchester United, who compete in
Football League Two
Football League Two (as at Season 2016-17) and play home games at
Colchester Community Stadium. Founded in 1937, the club entered the
Football League in 1950.
Colchester United Ladies play in the FA
Women's Premier League Southern Division. Other sports teams based in
the town include
Colchester Rugby Football Club,
American Football Club,
Colchester Weight Lifting Club, Colchester
Powerlifting Club (ColPower) and
Colchester & East
Essex County Cricket Club play some of their home games at
Castle Park Cricket Ground, home of
Colchester & East Essex.
Sports facilities in
Colchester include the sports centre, Colchester
Colchester Garrison Athletics Stadium (a co-operative
facility used by both the army and civilian population), and a
Colchester Zoo is a large zoo based in the Stanway area on the
outskirts of town.
A surviving fragment of the Roman
Town Wall in East Hill.
Construction of the walls of
Colchester took place between 65 and 80
AD, shortly after the destruction of the undefended colonia by
Boudicca, and they continued in use until after the Siege of
Colchester in 1648. Two large stretches of the wall are still standing
on the west and north sides and a number of fragments are visible
along the rest of the circuit. A notable survival is the Balkerne
Gate, which is the earliest and most complete Roman gateway in the
United Kingdom. A circular walk of nearly 2 miles (3.2 kilometres)
follows the course of the wall and the surviving portions.
"Jumbo" water tower
The Balkerne Water Tower or "Jumbo", viewed from the Balkerne Gate.
Jumbo Water Tower
Completed in 1883 when the
Town Council took over Colchester's water
supply, the 110-foot (34-metre) water tower was originally called the
"Balkerne Water Tower", but soon became known as "Jumbo" because
of the its large size, which prompted the addition of an
elephant-shaped weather vane at its peak. The tower was decommissioned
in 1987 and has had several private owners pending redevelopment.
The town hall is built on the site of the original moot hall, first
recorded in 1277 and demolished in 1843. Replacing a Victorian town
hall which had become unstable, work on the present building
started in 1897 to the design of John Belcher in the Edwardian Baroque
style, and was opened in 1902 by former prime minister, the Earl
of Roseberry. The building dominates the High Street and the
192-foot (58.5-metre) Victoria Tower is widely visible. The tower was
intended to commemorate the
Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria
Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and was
funded by a donation from James Noah Paxman, the founder of Davey,
Paxman & Co. It features four allegorical figures by L J Watts
representing engineering, military defence, agriculture and
fishery. At the top of the tower is a large bronze figure
Saint Helena (the patron saint of Colchester) holding the
True Cross; a local story says that a councillor was dispatched to
Italy to find a statue of the saint, but could only find one of the
Virgin Mary, which then had to be modified locally. Just below
this statue are four bronze ravens by Francis Carruthers Gould, which
represent the portreeve who ran Colchester's medieval port. The tower
contains a chiming clock with five bells, and another 15th-century
bell which is thought to have hung in the original moot hall. The
main facade of the
Town Hall features six life-sized statues, also by
Watts, depicting famous people connected with Colchester; on the south
elevation, Eudo Dapifer, Thomas Lord Audley,
William Gilberd and
Samuel Harsnett, and on the east,
Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder and Boudicca. The
interior features a marble staircase with a statue of Queen Victoria
and a monument to the
Colchester Martyrs. The first floor comprises a
mayoral suite, a committee room and the council chamber with a painted
ceiling and stained glass by Clayton and Bell. The second floor is
occupied by a large assembly hall called the Moot Hall, which features
a fine pipe organ by Norman and Beard.
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in the United Kingdom
Colchester's twin towns are:
Wetzlar, Germany, since 1969
Avignon, France, since 1972
Imola, Italy, since 1997
As is the case for the rest of Essex, Colchester's state schooling
operates a two-tier system. Two of the town's secondary schools are
Colchester Royal Grammar School
Colchester Royal Grammar School and
Colchester County High
School, the remainder being comprehensives. Comprehensive secondary
schools include Gilberd School,
Colchester Academy, Philip Morant
School and College, St Helena Media Arts College, St Benedict's
Catholic College and the Thomas Lord Audley School.
The University of
Essex is located to the east of
Wivenhoe Park, in the civil parish of Wivenhoe. Other tertiary
Colchester Sixth Form College and Colchester
Private schools in
Colchester include St. Mary's School, and
Colchester High School.
Colchester has a bus system (run mostly by First
Essex and Arriva
Colchester, as well as Hedingham Omnibuses, Beeston's, Ipswich Buses,
Panther Travel (Essex), Chambers and Regal Busways) which mostly uses
bus station in Osborne Street on the southern edge of the town centre.
Colchester railway station
Colchester railway station is located on the Great Eastern Main Line
operated by Abellio Greater Anglia.
Town is also served by Colchester
Town railway station and Hythe station located on the Sunshine Coast
Colchester is linked to London by the A12.
References in literature
The Roman historian
Colchester (Camulodunum) in The
Annals of Imperial Rome. In Book XIV he describes how '...the Roman
ex-soldiers...had recently established a settlement at Camulodunum',
later burned down in the Iceni rebellion. It is the only town in
Britain to have been explicitly mentioned in George Orwell's novel
Nineteen Eighty-Four as being the target of a nuclear attack. The
(fictional) Atomic Wars took place during the 1950s.
Colchester is the
only town that was specifically mentioned as being bombed, but the
book does say that many cities were destroyed in North America,
Europe, and Russia.
In popular culture
Colchester is reputed to be the home of three of the best known
English nursery rhymes: 'Old King Cole', 'Humpty Dumpty' and 'Twinkle,
Twinkle Little Star', although the legitimacy of all three claims is
Local legend places
Colchester as the seat of
King Cole (or Coel) of
the rhyme Old King Cole, a legendary ancient king of Britain. The name
Colchester is from Latin: the place-name suffixes chester, cester, and
caster derive from the
Latin word castrum (fortified place). In folk
etymology the name
Colchester was thought of as meaning Cole's
Castle[who?], though this theory does not have academic support. In
the legend Helena, the daughter of Cole, married the Roman senator
Constantius Chlorus, who had been sent by Rome as an ambassador and
was named as Cole's successor. Helena's son became Emperor Constantine
I. Helena was canonised as
Helena of Constantinople
Helena of Constantinople and is
credited with finding the true cross and the remains of the Magi. She
is now the patron saint of Colchester. This is recognised in the
emblem of Colchester: a cross and three crowns. The Mayor's medallion
contains a Byzantine style icon of
Saint Helena. A local secondary
school – St Helena's – is named after her, and her
statue is atop the town hall, although local legend is that it was
originally a statue of Blessed
Virgin Mary which was later fitted with
Colchester is also the most widely credited source of
the rhyme Humpty Dumpty. During the siege of
Colchester in the Civil
War, a Royalist sniper known as One-Eyed Thompson sat in the belfry of
the church of St Mary-at-the-Walls (
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall) and
was given the nickname Humpty Dumpty, most likely because of his size,
Humpty Dumpty being a common insult for the overweight. Thompson was
shot down (
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall) and, shortly after, the
town was lost to the Parliamentarians (all the king's horses and all
the king's men / couldn't put Humpty together again.) Another version
Humpty Dumpty was a cannon on the top of the church. The
church of St Mary-at-the-Walls still retains its Norman tower until
the top few feet, which are a Georgian repair.
The third rhyme said to have come from
Colchester is Twinkle Twinkle
Little Star, which was written by Jane Taylor who lived in the town's
Dutch Quarter, and published in 1806 with the title "The Star".
Colchester has also been suggested as one of the potential sites of
Camelot, on account of having been the capital of Roman Britain
and its ancient name of Camulodunum: this is not considered likely by
academics, as in Arthurian times
Colchester was under Saxon control.
The first part of Daniel Defoe's Moll
Flanders was set in
Colchester was also a named line of lathe machinery.
The opening credits for the British TV comedy show Blackadder Goes
Forth and a scene from the film Monty Python and the Meaning of Life
were both filmed at Colchester's former cavalry barracks.
Doctor Who episodes The Lodger and Closing Time are set in
Colchester, although they were filmed in Cardiff.
Asterix comic book
Asterix in Britain the
team wins a game against
Durovernum (Roman name for Canterbury).
The uniforms worn during the match in the book are similar to the
modern kit of
Prominent members of Blur, a popular 1990s music group met at school
During the "Princesses on Parade" sequence in the 1994 film The Swan
Princess, one of the princesses in the beauty pageant is said to come
from Colchester. The verse says: "This princess comes from Colchester,
where corn and cotton grows. She plays croquet and harpsichord, and
sews her own clothes."
People of note that were born or have lived in
George Biddell Airy
George Biddell Airy (1801–1892) – Astronomer Royal, attended
Colchester Royal Grammar School
Colchester Royal Grammar School 1814–1819
Cuthbert Alport, Baron Alport (1912–1998) – Cabinet Minister, High
Commissioner to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, High Steward
Ken Aston (1915–2001) – Football referee, responsible for many
important developments in football refereeing
Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden
Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden (1488–1544) – Lord
England 1533–44, founder of Magdalene College,
St Michael's Church, Berechurch
St Michael's Church, Berechurch has a monument to him (in
the Audley Chapel).
John Ball (priest)
John Ball (priest) (d. 1381) – leader of the
Peasants' Revolt of
John Beche (died 1539) – last abbot of St John's Abbey, Colchester
Crispin Bonham-Carter (1969– ) – actor and theatre director
Ali Carter (1979– ) – professional snooker player
Graham Coxon (1969– ) – musician and Blur lead guitarist
Cunobelin (died before 43 AD) – King of the Britons
Darren Day (1968– ) – actor and television presenter
Eudo Dapifer (died 1120) – oversaw the building of
and was its first steward
Neil Foster (1962– ) – cricketer
William Gilbert (1544–1603) – scientist, pioneer in the field of
magnetism and court physician to
Elizabeth I and James I
William Gull (1816–1890) – Physician-in-Ordinary to Queen
Victoria; Governor of Guy's Hospital; researched and named anorexia
William Hale (1797–1870) – early rocket engineer
Samuel Harsnett (1561–1631) – writer and Archbishop of York
Klaus Kinski (1926–1991) – actor, director, former German POW in
Colchester during the World War II
Charles Lucas (1613–1648) – royalist soldier in the English Civil
War and Siege of Colchester
Alfred Lungley (1905–1989) – awarded the
George Cross after the
Quetta earthquake of 1935
Bernard Mason (1895–1981) – businessman, philanthropist, clock
Philip Morant (1700–1770) – parish priest of St Mary-at-the-Walls,
author of The History & Antiquities of the County of Essex
Roger Penrose (1931– ) – mathematical physicist and philosopher
Dave Rowntree (1964– ) – musician, drummer for Blur
Anne Schwegmann-Fielding (1967– ) – sculptor and mosaic artist
Jeremy Spake (1969– ) – TV Personality and presenter
Jane Taylor (1783–1824) – poet and author of the lyrics to Twinkle
Twinkle Little Star
Gerald Templer (1898–1979) – British military commander
Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013) – Prime Minister, lived in
Colchester when working in
Manningtree as a research chemist in the
Archibald Wavell (1883–1950) – British Field-Marshal during World
War II, Viceroy of India.
Mary Whitehouse (1910–2001) – Christian morality campaigner, died
Laming Worthington-Evans (1868–1931) – Secretary of State for War,
Statistics of Colchester
Coat of arms of Colchester
Geography of the United Kingdom#Geology
List of natural disasters in the
United Kingdom and preceding states
Military history of the
United Kingdom during World War II
Church of St Leonard at the Hythe, Colchester
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Colchester.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for
Colchester Borough Council
Towns and villages of the
Colchester borough of Essex, England
The town of Colchester
List of places in Essex
Ceremonial county of Essex
Boroughs or districts
South Woodham Ferrers
River Lee Flood Relief Channel
Population of major settlements
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings
Most Ancient European Towns Network