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Visiting the Castle at Colchester, England: Roman origins, Norman solidity and 17th century Civil War bloodthirstiness

Updated on November 19, 2012
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Colchester Castle front doorway
Colchester Castle front doorway | Source
Colchester Castle
Colchester Castle | Source
Map location of Colchester, Great Britain
Map location of Colchester, Great Britain | Source

Over 2000 years of sometimes turbulent history

The Roman foundations of Colchester Castle, which may still be seen, date from AD54 onwards. Colchester was the capital of Roman Britain, and it claims to be the oldest in the country.

After the arrival of William the Conqueror 1000 years later, the need for a rebuilding of the Castle was seen. Its design was overseen the Right Reverend Gundolf, Bishop of Rochester.

"But what was a bishop doing, building a castle?"

Oh well, Pastor Gundolf was really an 11th century equivalent of a gun-toting preacher who runs his local chapter of the National Rifle Association (though maybe there's just a little alien, cultural mixture there... .)

The Castle, executed particularly in brick and clay, was repeatedly besieged, including during the English Civil War in the 17th century, Colchester Castle saw its fair share of sanguinary events. In 1648 Colchester's Royalist garrison was surrounded by Parliamentary forces, until it surrendered. Royalist leaders Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas were taken prisoner. (So: due process and fair play from Parliamentarians instead of arbitrariness associated with an absolute monarchy?) Well, you be the judge: these Royalist leaders were promptly executed; a monument recalling their execution stands in the Castle's grounds.

Also during the 17th century, many women died at Colchester Castle, having been accused of being witches. It is said that such was the admiration for this purpose to which Colchester Castle was put that in Salem, Massachusetts, later that century, similar practices occurred in emulation.

But don't worry, the museum attendants at Colchester Castle today are completely divested of any severe tendencies which might have been associated with the Castle, centuries back.

Colchester Castle is situated at Castle Park, Colchester, Essex.

November 19, 2012

Also worth seeing

In Colchester itself, the Tymperleys Clock Museum is housed in a Medieval building in the Downtown area.

Flatford Mill , Flatford , East Bergholt , Suffolk (distance: 15 kilometres) and its district were the subject of many of the works of the distinguished painter John Constable (1776-1837); the Mill is now a museum.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Colchester is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. Colchester is 152 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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