A brief look at Colchester

We were in Colchester at the beginning of September for a wedding so didn’t really do much in the way of exploring. Given my love for architectural styles I did have a brief wander around the Cultural area where we were staying to see what I could find.  It is of course a very old Roman town (Camulodunum ) and once the capital of Roman Britain, but was attacked and destroyed during Boudica’s rebellion in AD 61.

At only 50 or so miles north of London it is growing fast as a commuter town.

We stayed at the recently opened Greyfriars Hotel on the eastern edge of the High Street.  It is not only a beautiful C18th neo-classical building, but was for a hundred years a much-loved icon of educational excellence and, even centuries before 1755 when the current house was built, its site had religious, social and educational significance. Occupants have included friars, nuns, householders, clergy, physicians, horticulturists, an industrialist and students (young and adult). Empty from 2007 when sold by Essex County Council who decided it was no longer fit for purpose for education the building has been transformed.

The wedding we were attending was held across the road in the Minories – another lovely Georgian building and now an art gallery and centre for post-graduate study in art. This house in a very similar style to Grey Friars was bought in 1731 by Isaac Boggis a merchant in the wool trade.

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Continuing along the High Street you reach Castle Park and another neo-classical designed Georgian house – Hollytrees – which was built in 1718 by Thomas Blagden for Elizabeth Cornelisen. It was completed by March 1719 but unfortunately Elizabeth passed away before she had the chance to live in it. It is now a museum (free entry) and forms the eastern part of Castle Park.

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Hollytrees Museum

In front of the grand entrance to Castle Park and the Castle stands a very beautiful war memorial designed by sculptor Mr. Henry C. Fehr. The Winged Victory is a figure of exquisite beauty – the poise is perfect. In her right hand she is holding a sword, point downwards so that it represents “The Cross of Sacrifice” and “The Sword of Devotion,” and in her left a wreath of laurel. There is a figure of St George standing on the dragon and a figure of a lady holding a dove and representing Peace. The gates to the park are also part of the war memorial and donated by Lord Cowdray. Camulos – source of information

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The Town Hall (below) is of Baroque style and designed by  John Belcher after winning a competition in 1897. Building work began in 1898 and the building was opened by the Earl of Rosebery in May 1902. The 162ft Victorian tower was presented by industrialist James Paxman with a statue at the top of St Helena, Colchester’s patron saint.

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There are some other nice bits of architecture that caught my eye in passing along the High Street.

and since this includes some interesting windows I shall link this section of the post to Dawn’s A Lingering Look at Windows challenge.

Cutting through the park I found myself in the Dutch Quarter which is located just north of the High Street and includes: Maidenburgh Street, West Stockwell Street, East Stockwell Street, Stockwell Street, St Helen’s Lane, Northgate Street and Nunn’s Road. It was the 16th century home to Flemish Protestant refugees fleeing religious persecution having been defeated in a rebellion against Catholic Spain. Many of them were skilled weavers, and it was through this Dutch community that Colchester became famous for high-quality cloths.

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The houses pre-date the Dutch arrival and were formerly inhabited by the Jewish community and other immigrants. Today it is a quiet residential area. The Dutch Quarter fell into a state of decay during the early 20th century and received a Civic Trust Building award after being regenerated during the 1970s.

I’m sure Colchester has a lot more to offer, but I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse of the diverse architecture to be discovered in this town.

If you enjoy a walk, long or short, then have a look at Jo’s site where you are welcome to join in.

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Heyjude

I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

36 thoughts on “A brief look at Colchester”

        1. Most people put up secondary glazing if they can’t install double glazing and have central heating or / and fires so they are probably quite snug. I love the exterior of a cottage, just don’t like the low ceilings and dark cramped rooms inside.

        2. We like them for a holiday let, but not permanently. Steep stairs or those narrow winding ones are one of the things that put us off quite a few houses when we were house hunting.

  1. A really interesting look at the older parts of that Essex town, Jude. With all the surrounding estates and shopping areas, the historic centre can be easily overlooked.
    I love the Art Deco frontage. (of course) Looks as if it might have been a branch of Woolworth’s at one time.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. The Art Deco frontage is lovely, but I couldn’t find anything about Art Deco in my research, in fact I could find very little about those buildings on the HIgh Street. They are difficult to photograph too as you can’t get far enough away. As you say the surrounding areas and the one-way system doesn’t entice you in to the centre with its mainly standard High Street shops. But the park is quite nice and the Dutch Quarter pretty and quiet.

    1. Apparently the population has grown very fast since 2001 – London is so pricey to live in of course – and the town is very busy. But there is usually something worth seeing anywhere. 🙂

  2. I just live the name Colchester. It sounds so… English. And I’ll never get used to people saying they stayed in a building built in the 1700s. (And yes, I know you can say it about buildings even older.) Thanks for the wander.

    1. There are some delightful bits, but I’m afraid a lot of it is the usual mess that seems to be the norm in English towns these days. I did visit Chester a zillion years ago, but can’t think of a reason to return, especially since you are not there.

      1. Ah…. I am afraid in this instance flattery will get you nowhere.
        However,if you do have a cause to pop up, let me know,I may be able to arrange a cup of tea at my folks. 🙂

  3. Thanks for taking me on this virtual tour of Colchester, a cicty I’ve never (yet) been to. I was just thinking that when I saw Jo’s Monday Walk and Anabel’s [The Glasgow Gallinater] postings: there are way too many beautiful places to visit, even just here in the USA let alone elsewhere in the world. This way – reading blogs – I can at least see them virtually.
    Have a great week,
    Pit

    1. I’m not sure I would have gone to Colchester if it wasn’t for the wedding. Not a place that excites me, but the surrounding area is quite nice.

      1. Yes, my vote’s for the surrounding area, especially my village! Colchester itself is still a garrison town, though. Some of the town centre barracks have closed and been redeveloped but there’s still much in the way of a military presence. It’s odd to read Colchester being labelled as a commuter town for London. Once you get this far out in Essex even though places do have some commuters (my husband’s one of them) the proportions don’t compare to south Essex so we would never think of it round here as commuter belt. In fact, as someone who’s just moved from that commuter belt up here, to me it feels like this area looks north to East Anglia in attitude, pace and way of life rather than to London. Even the accent has a country burr to it in contrast to the Estuary accent of the southern half of the county.

  4. I do like a pink house, or a peach house even better 🙂 Maybe not side by side but still… 🙂 I like the traditional timbered bits and that very flamboyant town hall too. Had no idea what to expect of Colchester, so now I know. Chester now… that’s a bit posh 🙂 Thanks for the link, Jude.

    1. I always think of it as an army town as there used to be a large barracks there and in fact I vaguely remember a TV programme about it back in the late ’80s or early ’90s? Wasn’t very favourable.

  5. I knew that Colchester has a history dating back to the Romans, but Essex isn’t somewhere I’ve eve thought of visiting. You’re right though there are interesting things to see everywhere if we keep our eyes and open. I like the Dutch quarter buildings, we have a few nearby at Topsham.

    1. I shall have a bit more from Essex before I move on further north. Not a place that shouts out to me either, but I did once live very briefly in Southend-on-Sea!! (Sshh.. I like to keep that part of my life quiet)

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