A Short History of Colchester
Colchester has lots of history and there has been a settlement here since ancient times.
As the former Roman capital and Britain’s first city, Colchester dates back to 77 AD, making it the oldest town in Britain. During the Roman era, Colchester was a bustling centre of activity, with potters and other artisans contributing to the town’s thriving trade.
During the medieval period, Colchester town flourished as a hub for wool, weaving, and the cloth industry. The town’s castle keep, built around 1080, is the largest of its kind in England and Colchester Castle was once the seat of the sheriff during the Middle Ages.
One notable landmark in Colchester is the Roman circus, which was constructed in the early 2nd century CE. It was used for approximately 150 years and is the only known Roman circus in Britain.
Over the centuries, Colchester has seen changes in its status. While it was the seat of the sheriff in the Middle Ages, Chelmsford eventually became the county town. Colchester was awarded city status as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022, although many people still think of it as a town.
Colchester’s historical heritage is still very much evident today, with numerous surviving medieval and Georgian buildings. Visitors to Colchester can learn more about it by visiting Colchester’s museums, such as the Colchester Castle Museum, which offers insights into the town’s past.
If you are interested in history, Colchester is a great place to live. You can learn more and get your kids interested in our historical past.
What Amenities Does Colchester Have?
Colchester offers plenty of amenities and attractions to keep visitors and residents happy.
Colchester town centre and high street provide a diverse shopping experience, with a mix of independent shops, department stores, and specialty gift shops. Visitors can explore various shopping centres and stores in the area.
Bayside Park is a popular park in Colchester that offers amenities such as sand volleyball courts, shuffleboard courts, tennis courts (also lined for Pickleball), and a basketball court. Castle Park near the castle is another picturesque green space with a boating lake and lovely gardens.
Several hotels in Colchester offer amenities and services for guests. These amenities may include restaurants, bars, fitness centres, indoor pools, meeting rooms, and free internet access. Examples of hotels with amenities in Colchester include the Holiday Inn Colchester and Hampton Inn Colchester.
Museums and Art Galleries
While Colchester Zoo is always popular with families, there are some great museums and art galleries, too.
Colchester Castle Museum
Colchester Castle Museum in Castle Park is a popular destination for tourists. It showcases the history of Colchester, including its Roman origins. You can explore the castle grounds and check out the many interactive exhibits and displays.
Situated in the centre of Colchester, Hollytrees Museum is a publicly owned museum that provides insights into the local history and the lives of the people associated with the town. It features exhibits on various aspects of Colchester’s heritage, including Victorian life.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in Colchester offers a fascinating collection of exhibits related to the natural world. There are displays on geology, fossils, plants, and animals, which are bound to appeal to children.
Firstsite in Lewis Gardens, High Street, is a contemporary art gallery in Colchester that showcases thought-provoking and innovative artworks from around the world.
The Minories Art Gallery is a public gallery also on the High Street in Colchester. It features a diverse range of contemporary art exhibitions and showcases works by local and international artists.
Colchester Arts Centre
Colchester Arts Centre is a vibrant arts venue housed in a former Church of England parish church. With its unique setting and big attitude, the centre promotes a wide range of contemporary performing arts. The venue hosts an array of events, including live music performances, comedy shows, theatre productions, poetry readings, dance performances, children’s shows, and more.
Colchester has a well-connected transportation system and there are regular bus services for convenient journeys within the town and its surroundings.
There is a Park and Ride site on Cuckoo Farm Way, where you can leave your car and catch a bus into the town centre. The site also has a Park and Pedal service for a low cost, so you can park and then explore the local area on two wheels.
Stansted Airport is only 47 minutes away via car and there are also buses that take passengers straight to the airport.
Commuting to London
The city is on the London Liverpool Street to Norwich line, making it accessible from both cities within approximately an hour’s travel time, which is ideal if you want to live in Colchester while working in London. For those travelling from London, Colchester is easily accessible by train from stations like Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street, and Stratford. Also read The Best Commuter Towns in Essex.
In addition, Colchester is a hub for branch lines to destinations such as Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.
Schools and Higher Education
The University of Essex has a campus in Colchester. The university was established in 1965 and offers a range of courses for students. The town has two private high schools and 17 state high schools, plus 20 primary schools. Many of the local schools have been rated as Outstanding by Ofsted, including Colchester County High School for Girls and Hamilton Primary School.
If you are looking for an attractive place to live within easy commuting distance of London, Colchester ticks a lot of boxes. It has lots of amenities, plenty of history, and also some highly rated schools. The ancient town, which is now a city, is well worth considering as your next home.