I used to work in Colchester and I do love the little town. I think it was when I started working in Chelmsford that Alan and I stopped going to Colchester often enough for it to stop feeling familiar. I don’t know why, really. It’s got great shops, both independent and popular chains, really good, small independent restaurants (there’s a Caribbean restaurant that does an absolutely divine goat curry that you can get with peas and rice! They even have an all-you-can-eat buffet for £8 on Saturdays; drinks are separate of course. Look for the S&S Restaurant on St. John’s Street) and restaurant names, with more to come as Colchester High Street seems to be making quite the revival (with a Bill’s already established, a Byron’s coming soon and Wagamama opening in the near future as well). Apart from that, it’s got history in shedloads as it’s got a gorgeous 11th century Norman keep, ruins of an Augustinian priory, and the remains of a Roman chariot race track!
Colchester was known as Camulodunum and was mentioned by Pliny the Elder who died in 79AD (and by this virtue it is called the oldest recorded town in Britain). It was the Roman capital of Britain (yes, before London!) but was attacked and destroyed by Boadicea’s (Boudica) rebellion. It was soon after the destruction of Colchester that London became Rome’s provincial capital. Colchester held such a romantic link to the Romans that some historians postulated that it might have been a possible site for the Arthurian city of Camelot.
What I love about Colchester is the history that is all around the town, quite literally. The town is still surrounded by Roman walls that were built after the rebellion led by Boadicea. The Romans wanted to fortify the town and fortify it they certainly did. Parts of the 3,000 yard-long walls still stand. One of the biggest and oldest parts is the Balkerne Gate that stands right next to where the Mercury Theatre is. The history geek in me was excited to find that you could actually touch the Balkerne Gate. There were no protective walls around it. It was literally history you could touch!
Colchester is a mixture of old and new but still has that lovely small town feel that makes you smile. It still has lovely old houses nestled in between relatively new Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses. During a trip to Colchester to see what Invasion Colchester was all about last Saturday, Alan and I stopped off at North Bridge in Middleborough in Colchester to photograph this small, charming collection of Medieval houses that were sitting along the River Colne. I’ve seen photographs of it and it has always been biscuit-tin pretty. These lovely pink houses did not disappoint and I got my Instagram-worthy shot (pity about the shadowban, or I’d post it on IG really…maybe I will (if) when the ban gets lifted!). Even the River Colne cooperated and made like it was glass. Pity there was so much coverage on the river or else you’d see perfect reflections of the lovely cottages with their exposed timber frames.
With the fastest train journey from London being an hour and 2 minutes, if you love history, Colchester might just be the place to come and visit.