Colchester is Britain’s oldest recorded town, with a long and colourful history. It’s a history you can share by visiting the town’s award-winning museums where you can see collections of international importance.
The History of Colchester
Cunobelin (Shakespeare’s Cymbeline), leader of the British Trinovantes tribe, made a settlement at Camulodunum (‘Fortress of the war god Camulos’), expanding both his kingdom and trade with the Roman world.
The Roman invasion of Britain. The Emperor Claudius captured Camulodunum. 11 British Kings submitted to him at Gosbecks (just south west of the present day town centre).
Construction of the Temple of Claudius began (where the Castle now stands).
Boudica’s Revoly (Boadicea) destroyed the Temple and the colonia .
65 – 80 AD
The town walls were built including Britain’s largest Roman gateway, Balkerne gate, a magnificent triumphal arch. Some two thirds of this wall still stand, the oldest town wall in Britain.
Pliny the Elder mentioned Camulodunum in his ‘Natural History’. This is the earliest historical reference to a British town.
The Normans built Colchester Castle over the remains of the Roman Temple of Claudius.
The first Flemish refugees arrive, fleeing from religious persecution. They were weavers and brought new prosperity to the town. The area where they lived can still be seen just off the High Street. It is known as the Dutch Quarter.
The Siege of Colchester .During the English Civil War the town was sieged for eleven weeks by Oliver Cromwell’s army. There was a lot of suffering for the local people.
The water tower known as Jumbo was built. It is 40.8m (134ft) high and dominates Colchester’s skyline. It was named Jumbo after the famous elephant in London Zoo. Jumbo had then just been sold, amid national protests, to the American circus showman P. T. Barnum.
The Colchester earthquake caused great damage to a number of buildings in the area.
Castle Park, a classic Victorian park situated just two minutes from the High Street, was opened by the Lord Mayor of London.
The University of Essex admited its first students. It received a Royal Charter in the following year. Today it is Britain’s most international university, hosting students from 125 countries.
Colchester Museums’ collections of Iron Age and Roman artefacts were recognised by the Government as being one of the top 50 museum collections in the country and were given ‘Designated’ status.
Today Colchester is a thriving, modern town. Its history and heritage combined with a superb range of shops, award winning attractions, an increasing influence of contemporary art and accommodation give the visitor an interesting variety of experiences, however long their stay.