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For other places with the same name, see Colchester (disambiguation).
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Population: 104,390
Ordnance Survey
OS grid reference:TQ995255
District: Colchester
Shire county: Essex
Region: East of England
Constituent country:England
Sovereign state:United Kingdom
Ceremonial county: Essex
Historic county: Essex
Police force: Essex
Fire and rescue: {{{Fire}}}
Ambulance:East of England
Post office and telephone
Postal district: CO1 - CO7
Dialling code: 01206
UK Parliament: Colchester
European Parliament: East of England
Image:Flag of England.svg

Colchester is a town and is the main settlement of the Essex borough of Colchester in the East of England.

It has a population of 104,390 and, as the oldest recorded Roman town, makes claim to be the oldest town in Britain.

Colchester is located 51 miles (83 km) north east of London and is connected to the capital by the A12 road and the Great Eastern Main Line.


[edit] History

Main article: History of Colchester

[edit] Roman Colchester

A map of Colchester from 1940

Colchester is claimed to be the oldest recorded Roman town in Britain. Its Celtic name was Camulodunon, meaning 'the fortress of (the war god) Camulos'. Following the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43, a Roman legionary fortress was established and the name Camulodunon was modified to the Roman spelling of 'Camulodunum'. Camulodunum served as the first 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 but it would seem that the council of the provincial natives still met at Colchester, where the Temple to the Divine Claudius served as the seat of this council. Later, when the Roman frontier moved north (c. AD 49), Camulodunum became a colonia known as Colonia Claudia Victricensis.

[edit] Sub-Roman and Saxon Colchester

There is evidence of hasty re-organisation of Colchester's defences around 400AD, including the blocking of the Balkerne Gate. Archaeological excavations have shown that public buildings were abandoned, although the 8th-century chronicler Nennius mentioned the town, which he called Caer Colun, in his list of the 28 most important cities in Britain. The archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler was the first to propose that the lack of early Anglo-Saxon finds in a triangle between London, Colchester and St Albans could indicate a 'sub-Roman triangle' where British rule continued after the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. Since then however, excavations have revealed some early Saxon occupation, including a 5th-century wooden hut built on the ruins of a Roman house in present-day Lion Walk. The Saxons called the town Colne ceaster, the Roman fortress of 'Colonia'. The tower of Holy Trinity Church is late Saxon work. Vikings from East Anglia overran Colchester and most of Essex in the late 9th century; the town remained in Viking hands until 920 when it was besieged and recaptured by the army of Edward the Elder.

[edit] Medieval Colchester

Image:Colchester Castle.jpg
Colchester Castle, constructed over the vaults of the ruined Temple of Claudius

Medieval Colchester's main landmark is Colchester Castle, which is an 11th century Norman keep, and built atop 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 (know locally as "St. John's Abbey”), and the ruins of the Augustinian priory of St. Botolph (known locally as “St. Botolph's Priory").

[edit] Royal charter

In 1189, 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 in 1989 [1].

[edit] Tudor Colchester “The Dutch Quarter”

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 cloth. 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. The old Roman wall runs along Northgate Street in the Dutch Quarter.

[edit] English Civil War “The Siege of Colchester”

Main article: Siege of Colchester

In 1648, during the Second English Civil War, a Royalist army led by Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle entered the town. A pursuing Parliamentary army led by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Henry Ireton besieged the town for eleven and a half weeks. The Royalists surrendered in the late summer and their leaders Lucas and Lisle were executed in the grounds of Colchester Castle. A small obelisk marks the spot where they fell.

[edit] Victorian Colchester

Colchester is noted for its Victorian architecture. Significant landmarks include the Colchester Town Hall and the Jumbo Water Tower. In 1884, Colchester suffered an earthquake that is estimated to have been 5.2 on the Richter Scale.

[edit] Colchester Army Garrison

Main article: Colchester Garrison

Colchester has been an important military garrison since the Roman era. The Colchester Garrison is currently home to 16 Air Assault Brigade.

[edit] Colchester Town Watch

Colchester Town Watch [2] was founded in 2001 to provide a ceremonial guard for the Mayor of Colchester and for civic events such as the Oyster Feast. The historic re-enactors wear a livery based on late Elizabethan dress.

[edit] Paxman Diesels

The Paxman diesels business has been associated with Colchester since 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 engines.

[edit] Recent history

The £22.7m eight-mile A120 Colchester Eastern Bypass opened in June 1982.

[edit] Politics

The Member of Parliament for the Colchester is Bob Russell (LibDem). The Mayor of Colchester is Councillor Richard Gower (Conservative).

Colchester Borough Council is the local authority. Control of the borough council has passed between Tories and LibDems in recent years. The political composition of the council was (2006 election results):

The town is also represented on Essex County Council. Individual villages within the borough boundaries are also represented by parish councils.

[edit] Culture

Colchester has a vibrant culture and attracts many visitors because of its history and its architecture.

[edit] Museums

  • Colchester Castle Museum: located in the Colchester Castle, features an extensive exhibit on Roman Colchester.
  • Hollytrees Museum: located close to the castle, formerly the home of Charles Gray, currently a social history museum with children's exhibits.
  • Natural History Museum: located across from the Castle Park gates and Hollytrees, the museum is located in the former All Saints Church.
  • Tymperlys Clock Museum: located in the historic town centre, in a 15th Century timber-framed house, once home to William Gilbert, now houses the Bernard Mason clock collection.

[edit] Arts

Image:Cruc of Mankind.jpg
Connor Barrett's Crucifixion of Mankind, located in the Colchester Public Library
  • Mercury Theatre: opened in 1972, the Mercury Theatre is one the region's leading repertory theatres. [3]
  • Colchester Arts Centre: multi-function arts venue located in the former St Mary-at-the-Walls church, home of the Colchester Beer Festival. [4]
  • firstsite: the town's main art gallery, firstsite is thought by some to be one of the leading contemporary art venues in the country.

[edit] Sports

  • Colchester United: the Layer Road ground is home to Colchester United football club.
  • Colchester Leisure World: swimming & fitness facilities, exhibition hall.
  • Athletics Stadium: the Colchester Garrison Athletics Stadium is a co-operative facility jointly used by the Army and the Town.
  • Colchester Cricket: the Colchester & East Essex Cricket Club has its grounds in a picturesque setting below the Castle Park. The Essex County Cricket Club plays a series of games at Colchester during the summer.

[edit] Nearby attractions

[edit] Twin towns

Colchester competes in the Twin Town Games against Wetzlar, Avignon, Orleans, Tarragona, and Siena.

Colchester's twin towns are:

[edit] Education

Colchester is home to many secondary schools including two grammar schools, the Colchester Royal Grammar School for boys and Colchester County High School for girls. Both produce excellent GCSE and A-Level examination results, often in the country's top-10.

Colchester Sixth Form College offers a wide range of subjects at A-level, AS level, and GCSE or equivalent level. This is complemented by the Colchester Institute which covers many practical and day release courses as well as some of the more academic ones.

The University of Essex is located in a parkland setting on the edge of Colchester, close to the town of Wivenhoe.

[edit] Higher education

[edit] Secondary schools

[edit] Independent (private) schools

[edit] Transportation

Colchester has a bus system (run by First Buses, Network Colchester and Hedingham Omnibuses) which mainly centres around Colchester Bus Station in the town centre.

Colchester North station is served by 'one' services on the London - Norwich mainline and the Colchester - Clacton line.

Colchester Town railway station is on a spur from the Colchester - Clacton line, and Hythe station is also on the Clacton line.

[edit] References in literature

The Roman historian Tacitus mentions Colchester (Camulodunum) in The Annals of Imperial Rome. In the Chapter Nero and his helpers he describes how '...the Roman ex-soldiers...had recently established a settlement at Camulodunum', later burned down in the Iceni rebellion. Geoffrey of Monmouth describes Colchester as the site of the legendary kingdom of Camelot, due to the similarity of its Roman name.

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.

[edit] Colchester in popular culture

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 Old English: 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, though it actaully means the Roman fort 'Colonia'. 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 Saint 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. Her statue is atop the town hall and a local secondary school – St Helena's – is named after her.

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 corpulence. 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.) The church of St Mary-at-the-walls still retains its Norman tower until the top few feet, which are a Georgian repair.

Colchester has also been cited as one of the potential sites of Camelot. This comes from the fact it was the capital of Roman England and its ancient name was Camulodunon.

[edit] Famous Colcestrians

People of note that were born or have lived in Colchester include:

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


cs:Colchester de:Colchester fr:Colchester no:Colchester, England pl:Colchester simple:Colchester fi:Colchester sv:Colchester


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