5 Things Colchester is Famous For

Colchester is the oldest recorded town in Britain. Unsurprisingly, this means that the Essex town has a great deal of history to explore. It’s a place that’s rich in history but has a lot to enjoy in the present day too. It’s just over an hour away from London by train, so it’s good for a day trip or could be somewhere that you decide to visit for longer. Colchester is known for a number of things, from its long history to its popular zoo. If you’re looking for somewhere with some amazing architecture, culture and history, and many activities to keep you entertained, you should try taking a trip to Colchester. Here are some of the things it’s most famous for that you can discover in the town.

Visit Colchester in Essex

1) Being a Record-holder

Welcome to Colchester signage (Britain’s 1st city)

Colchester holds the title for the “oldest” of various different things. As well as being the oldest recorded city, it also has the oldest town walls in Britain. They were built by the Romans in AD 60 after Boudicca ransacked the area. Today, about a mile of the wall is still there. The oldest hot cross bun in the world (currently in existence) was baked in Colchester in 1807 and is now owned by a couple in Wormingford. What is probably the oldest visible church in Britain is also located in Colchester. Only the foundations remain, but they were built in about AD 330 for a Christian church in Roman Colchester.

Not quite the oldest, but the second oldest continuously used site in Britain for making powered engines opened in Colchester in 1874.

2) Victorian Architecture

colchester old water mill large house estate famous architecture
Colchester old water mill large house estate famous architecture; Essex; England; UK

Colchester’s history might stretch back to Roman times, but it’s also recognised for its more recent Victorian architecture. Two notable examples include Colchester Town Hall and the Jumbo Water Tower. Surprisingly, as they are not all too common in England, Colchester experienced an earthquake that reached 4.7 on the Richter Scale in 1884. Although this caused extensive damage, you can still see plenty of Victorian buildings in the town, including houses, businesses, and more.

The town grew gradually compared to others, with the number of houses growing by more than two and a half times between 1835 and 1911. The number of public buildings grew as the town did too, including hospitals, a new corn exchange, and new schools.

3) Colchester Castle

Norman Castle in Colchester
Medieval Norman castle and Castle Park gardens in spring, in Colchester, Essex, England, United Kingdom.

Another significant part of Colchester’s history is Colchester Castle. It’s a Norman castle, which was the first of the great keeps and the largest built by the Normans in Europe. Built on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius, construction of the castle began in 1076. In the 13th century, it was used as a prison, and at the end of the 17th century, it was bought by a private owner. In 1727, it was given to Charles Gray, a lawyer and antiquarian, who restored the castle (although he mistakenly believed it to be Roman).

The castle became a museum in 1860, and it’s still open for visitors today. There are daily tours, as well as interactive displays and exhibits.

4) Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo
Colchester Zoo

If history isn’t your thing, there are still fun things for you to do in Colchester. One thing that Colchester is known for in the present day is its popular zoo. Nowhere near as old as some of the things in Colchester, the zoo opened in 1963. The large zoo is home to many different animals, including rare and endangered species. From wolves and komodo dragons to chimpanzees and anteaters, you can discover animals of all types. The zoo has animal encounters and a range of fun experiences and activities, including the chance to shadow a keeper or be a keeper for a day, as well as exclusive elephant and giraffe feeding.

5) Famous People from Colchester

Colchester Romans

With such a rich history, it makes sense that there are a lot of well-known people from Colchester. From important historical figures to modern-day household names, Colchester has been the birthplace, home, or sometimes death place of some significant people. In the early history of Colchester, there are people like Emperor Claudius, who led his troops into Camulodunum (the Roman name for Colchester), as well as Boudicca (or Boadicea), who destroyed Roman Colchester. A little more recently, there’s the painter John Constable, born in a village near Colchester in 1776 and 17th-century author Daniel Defoe, who lived in Colchester. It’s also home to the Britpop band Blur, famous rivals of Oasis.

Colchester has a fascinating history and plenty of things to experience in the present too. There’s plenty to do there if you decide to visit.

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