Gallery: Final preparations ahead of Colchester Castle reopening on Friday, May 2
15:30 22 April 2014
For nearly 10 centuries Colchester Castle has stood in the heart of the town.
Built by the Normans soon after the conquest, the castle was a stronghold securing the route between London and East Anglia.
Today the castle is a museum and home to thousands of artefacts which tell the rich history of the town.
Bill Seaman, museum manager, pictured opposite page, said: “Colchester castle is unique. It is the biggest Norman keep ever built. It was built on the site of a roman temple of Claudius and the vaults of the temple are still part of the building.
“Since the 1860s it has been a museum of the Colchester story.”
On May 2 the castle will open its doors once again to the public after 15 months of closure for a multi-million pound refurbishment.
Bill said the refurbishment includes building insulation and repairs, a new lift, rewiring and re-lighting and new display cases. There’s even a revamped shop.
He added: “The castle has been closed for 15 months. There has been huge support and interest in the project. It is a public building and we are looking forward to opening it to the public once more.”
Inside the building is much lighter and a lot of work and thought has gone into displaying the museum’s collections.
Philip Wise is the collections and curatorial manager. He said: “The story of Colchester goes back to the Iron Age and the collections go back to that period and up to the siege of the castle during the Civil War in 1648.”
The museum is home to 6,000 artefacts – some of which are of international importance.
Philip said: “Colchester was a significant Roman settlement and we have two tombstones in the collection. One is the best depiction of a Roman centurion ever found in Roman Britain. The other is of a cavalry man and shows him on horseback astride defeated Britain.”
Claire Taylor, visitor service officer for Colchester Borough Council, said people will be able to hire a tablet for £1 which brings to life some of the collection showing visitors how the tombs would have appeared when first made.
Philip said the refurbishment has enabled the museum to reassess and redisplay its collections.
He added: “We started a project two-and-a-half years ago and decided to concentrate on certain objects to tell the story of the history of Colchester.”
These objects include the Colchester vase – one of Philip’s favourite items.
He added: “If you open any text book on Roman Britain the Colchester vase is in there. It is of international importance and one of the most famous pots from that time. It is in excellent condition and shows gladiators in combat as well as inscriptions of their names.”
A Roman doctor’s grave is also redisplayed as it would have appeared; there is also a temporary exhibition gallery.
Councillor Tim Young of Colchester Borough Council said the refurbishment will put Colchester firmly on the tourist map.
She said: “This refurbishment gives Colchester a state-of-the-art museum. There is a lot more to the castle than people might think.”
Last month, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited for a tour of the newly renovated site.
The castle re-opens on May 2. For more information visit www.cimuseums.org.uk