Feature Friday – The Origins of Colchester
13 February 2015 by Marketing Team
You may know that Colchester is the oldest record town in Britain, but do you know why?
Colchester began life as the capital of Roman Britain in c.AD49, during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Today, Colchester is known as the oldest town in Britain and it is all thanks to Pliny the Elder. A Roman author and scholar, he mentioned Camulodunum (Colchester) in his work long ago in AD77, this work is the oldest surviving written reference of any town in Britain.
When the Romans settled in Colchester, they built at least eight Romano-British temples, two theatres and eventually the 3000 yard long walls surrounding the town. However, they were the masters of their own downfall. When Prasutagus, King of the Iceni and husband to Boudicca, died, the Romans did not obey an agreement to ensure the Kings people were protected. They set about plundering the Iceni Kingdom and flogged Boudicca and their daughters. Their actions led to the Iceni revolt and demise of Roman Colchester in AD60/61.
As well as Roman roots, Colchester has some serious Norman history to boot too. Colchester Castle’s construction began in 1069, and took over 100 hundred years to complete due to threat of Viking invasion. The keep, situated in the heart of the town, is the largest built in Britain and the largest remaining example of a Norman Keep in Europe.
Over the years, the castle has been used as a Royal Castle, a county prison and the grounds for the execution of Royalist leaders Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle. Colchester castle is currently a museum with refurbishments recently completed that cost around £4 million.
But enough of the past! Today, Colchester is an expanding town with an ever growing population. We are home to a successful University, a league one football team and a wealth of historical attractions and heritage. The town also stays true to its military routes with the Colchester Garrison; a military base with influences stretching back to the Napoleonic wars of 1792 – 1815. The garrison is currently home to the 2nd and 3rd Parachute Battalion.
The future of Colchester is one which appears to be very bright indeed with exciting developments everywhere you look: A park and ride is being constructed just of the A12 by the Weston Homes Stadium and the Tollgate retail park is set for a drastic revamp. The improvements could potentially create 1,000 new jobs and bring around £13 million to the local economy.
To round off things, here’s a list of some of the lesser known facts you may not know about Colchester:
- Colchester is the home of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, and Little Star’. The author, Jane Taylor lived in the town’s Dutch quarter
- Due Colchester’s Roman name, Camulodunum, the town is said to be one of the potential sites of Camelot
- Colchester is said to be the home of ‘Humpty Dumpty’…… More on that next week!
- A location which was once home to a military fort will often have ‘Chester’ in its name. Colchester for example
- The Jumbo Water Tower was named after an elephant from London Zoo. The name was used to mock the tower because it dwarfed near my buildings
- Colchester was superseded by London as the capital of Roman Britain. Perhaps things would be a little different today if Boudicca had not raised Colchester to the ground.