Colchester Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Colchester Castle

Colchester, England, United Kingdom

Colchester Castle is a beautifully preserved Norman stronghold with a rich history dating back to Roman times, having been built on the site of the Temple of Claudius.

Lily Johnson

01 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle is a beautifully preserved Norman stronghold with a rich history dating back to Roman times. Containing a fascinating collection and interactive displays, Colchester provides the perfect visit for those looking to know more about the area’s extensive history.

Colchester Castle history

Construction of Colchester Castle began in around 1076 and was completed by around 1100, for use as a royal fortress by William I – son of William the Conqueror. One of the most striking aspects of the Castle is its imposing keep, said to be the largest example of a Norman keep Britain.

The central tower’s grand size is a legacy from Roman times however, as it was built on the foundations of a vast Roman temple known as the Temple of Claudius, said to date back to the 1st century. Colchester itself was Roman Britain’s first capital, and today contains a host of fascinating Roman remains.

While today seen as the foundation of the eminent Colchester Castle, the Temple of Claudius has a dramatic story of its own. Having been attacked by the forces of Queen Boudicca, the people of Colchester shut themselves inside the temple, only to be killed within two days.

After its construction by the Normans, Colchester Castle would go on to witness a range of events over the course of its lifetime. In 1215 it was besieged by King John during the First Barons’ War, while during the English Civil War Royalist leaders Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle were executed on its grounds – legend tells that grass will not grow where they fell.

Colchester Castle was also the site of the interrogation and jailing of ‘witches’ in 1645 by the self-proclaimed Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, who is believed to have been responsible for the execution of over 100 alleged witches.

Colchester Castle today

Today, Colchester Castle is a museum open to the public and remains the largest Norman keep in Europe! Using an interactive tablet, the Castle may be viewed as it was in medieval times, while its Chapel, well, and prison cells may also be explored, affording guests a glimpse into its fascinating thousand-year history.

Guided tours are available and allow access to view the foundations and remains of the Temple of Claudius, while on display is a collection of some of the country’s most important historical finds. From Roman statues and mosaics to Civil War armour, Colchester Castle has something for lovers of all historical eras!

Getting to Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle is located in Colchester, Essex, and can be reached via Junction 27 of the A12 into the town centre. Parking is available at the Priory Street and Britannia car parks, a few minutes walk to the site. Colchester Main train station is a 20-minute walk to the site, while Colchester Town is just a 10-minute walk. The main bus station in Colchester is also on Osbourne Street, a 10-minute walk to the site.

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