Colchester is the oldest recorded town in Britain. It was the capital of south-east England when the Romans invaded in AD 43. During the Middle Ages Colchester developed into an important weaving centre. I was interested to see a town with such an old history and decided to go and visit it.
Colchester is only an hour away from London. Trains depart from London Liverpool Street station every 10 to 15 minutes. I did a half day trip there. I left at 8 am and was back in London by 5 pm.
Here are the 6 places I liked the most.
Pretty Houses by the North Bridge
The first place to see after arriving in Colchester is the bridge over the river Colne and a few pretty houses located just next to it. I couldn’t find any information on these houses, so I was just appreciating them for their historic look.
Between those pretty houses on the river and the High Street of Colchester you will find more colourful houses that make up the Dutch Quarter.
It was the 16th century home to Flemish Protestant refugees fleeing religious persecution following their defeat in a rebellion against Catholic Spain. The houses pre-date the Dutch arrival and were formerly inhabited by the Jewish community and other immigrants. The area still retains the original tall houses and the steep, narrow streets.
Jumbo Water Tower
In the west part of the town there is a 1st century AD Roman gate and the Jumbo water tower. Fun fact that the tower was nicknamed “Jumbo” after the London Zoo elephant as a term of derision by Reverend John Irvine who was annoyed that the tower dwarfed his nearby rectory.
I had my coffee break by this tower which gave me an opportunity to admire this construction. I personally find it an amazing example of Victorian architecture. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to get to the top of the tower as a tourist.
St. Botolph’s Priory
It was the first Augustinian monastery in Britain. The priory was founded around the year 1100 AD and represents an excellent example of early Norman architecture. The ruins of the priory church are most impressive, with large round columns and the rounded arches.
Colchester Castle and Colchester Castle Park
This is the oldest and largest Norman castle keeps still standing in England. Twice the size of the White Tower at the Tower of London, it was built in 1076 AD on the platform of a Roman temple. There is a museum where you can learn more about the most important events in British history.
Colchester Castle park is divided into the Upper Park and Lower Park by the Roman Wall that crosses through it east to west. The park is quite big and it feels like a good place for a picnic.
This is a very picturesque building and a great place for a stunning photo. It was built as a fishing lodge in 1591, converted to a fulling mill around 1640 and then converted to a corn mill in about 1840, which continued working until the 1930s. It is a National Trust property and you have to buy a ticket which is £3.75. Members enter for free. The mill is within a 20 min walk from Colchester centre.
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