max temp: 12°C

min temp: 6°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Gallery: 10 things you didn’t know about Colchester

19:00 13 May 2014

A model of the giant Chariot Racing Circus which lies buried under the old garrison area of Colchester.

A model of the giant Chariot Racing Circus which lies buried under the old garrison area of Colchester.


So what is Colchester famous for? A castle? A League One football team? Er, Damon Albarn and Blur? Local historian Andrew Phillips proves there is more to this historic town than just the obvious with 10 facts you may – or may not –have known.

A sergeant major cycles past the former Prisoner of War Camp where the Kray twins first met their future gangland friends.A sergeant major cycles past the former Prisoner of War Camp where the Kray twins first met their future gangland friends.

1. Britain’s first city, Colchester, has the oldest town walls in Britain. Built by the Romans after Boudicca wrecked the place in AD 60, about a mile of the wall is still there.

2. Colchester has Britain’s only military ‘glasshouse’, where, during National Service days (1946-1960), hard men did porridge before dismissal from the Army. Graduates included the Kray Twins, one of whom broke the jaw of a corporal who shouted at him. More recently it was trialled as a ‘boot camp’ for naughty boys, before they invented ASBOs. It began life as a German prisoner-of-war camp but is now the Army’s only Military Corrective Training Centre.

3. The best known nursery rhyme in the world, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’, was written by Jane Taylor, aged 23, in 1806 in her attic, which still exists in Stockwell Street, Colchester.

4. The Oldest Hot Cross Bun in the world was baked in Wyre Street, Colchester, on Good Friday 1807 and is now rock hard. Owned by a couple in Wormingford, it beats one kept in the British Museum, baked in 1869.

5. Probably the oldest visible church remains in Britain are the foundations of the church built for a Christian cemetery in Roman Colchester about AD 330. To date over 800 hundred burials have been excavated. The church now stands outside the main Police Station.

6. At 140 years old, the second oldest continuously used site in Britain for making powered engines is the Paxman (now MAN Diesel) Works, opened off Hythe Hill, Colchester, in 1874. They are currently building the Paxman 18VP185. At 5,000 horsepower it is the largest diesel engine, and the only British-designed one, made in Britain.

7. The least known major archaeological site in Britain is Gosbeck’s Archaeological Park, Colchester. It was the royal centre of Camulodunum, the Iron Age fortress of King Cunobelin, whom Shakespeare called Cymbeline, and the Roman historian Dio Cassius called ‘king of the Britons’. Camulodunum was enormous, defended by 15 miles of defensive dykes. The Romans added a temple, (where Cunobelin may be buried), and a ceremonial theatre. Both have been marked out on the site.

8. A Second World War pillbox in Colchester was the unlikely place where the immortal Second World War song, ‘There’ll always be an England’ was written by Ross Parker, co-author of ‘We’ll Meet Again’, in 1940, while stationed at Roman Way Camp. The camp was so noisy he retreated to the pill box for quietness while composing his song.

9. Proportionate to its population, more Protestant martyrs were burnt alive in Colchester during the brief reign of Queen Mary than in any other town in England. Foxe’s famous 1563 ‘Book of Martyrs’ declared, ‘The ancient and famous city of Colchester for the earnest profession of the gospel became like unto the city upon a hill and...gave light to all those who came to confer there.’

10. Roman Colchester had the only known Roman Chariot Racing Arena (like Ben Hur) in Britain. 470 metres long and 75 metres wide it housed up to 15,000 spectators. The starting gates are being re-created on their original footprint and will soon be a tourist attraction.

The number of complaints about Abellio Greater Anglia has risen.

The number of complaints handled by rail operator Abellio Greater Anglia increased by nearly 26% during the first three months of the current financial year according to new figures from the Office for Rail and Road (ORR).

All of the alleged sexual assaults happened on buses in Suffolk.

More needs to be done to empower women in Suffolk to come forward about sexual assaults, a campaigner has said.

Could Broomhill Pool be on the brink of restoration?

Hopes of restoring Ipswich’s Broomhill Pool have today received a huge boost with the news that the Heritage Lottery Fund has made an interim award to the project.

Broomhill pool from the air

As hopes of restoring Ipswich’s lido to its former glory take a step forward today, we look back at the pool’s past.

The launch of 'Pigs Gone Wild' at Trinity Park.

A piggie parade that is set to draw many visitors to Ipswich and raise £100,000 for a hospice charity took off in style last night at a glittering launch event.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service attended two road traffic collisions this evening.

Needham Road in Stowmarket where the crash took place

An 81-year-old cyclist who sustained serious injuries following a collision in Stowmarket last week has died.

Chelmsford Crown Court

Two teenagers that caused extensive burns to a Witham man’s face after throwing a corrosive liquid at him in a case of mistaken identity have been found guilty.

The East Anglian Air Ambulance is in attendance.

A woman has suffered a “potentially life-changing” head injury during a crash in Beccles.

Pc Jason Lambourne

When Pc Jason Lambourne isn’t working for Suffolk Constabulary, he dons another emergency services uniform for work as an extra in hit television shows and films, including the latest 007 movie.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages