Colchester Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about Colchester Castle.

  • Colchester Castle is an almost complete Norman castle, dating from the 11th century. It is located in the town of Colchester in Essex, about 80 km north-east of London.
  • Colchester was once the capital of Roman Britain and is believed to be England’s oldest town. The Romans built a 2,800 metre long wall around the town, which can still be seen today.
  • The castle’s main keep measures 46 by 34 metres and is the largest in Britain. It was at one time 4 storeys high although it has been lowered over time as the stone has been recycled into other local buildings.
  • William the Conqueror ordered the castle to be built, and it was constructed between 1069 and 1100. Construction stopped in 1080 because of threats of a Viking invasion.
  • Colchester Castle was built over an old Roman temple. Parts of the castle were built with tiles and stone taken from the temple and other nearby Roman ruins.

Colchester Castle

  • Colchester Castle experienced little military action during its history. In 1215 King John attacked the castle, an incident which led to the famous Magna Carta being signed.
  • Two Royalist leaders were executed behind the castle during the second English Civil War in the 17th century. According to a local legend, grass never grows in that spot.
  • During the 17th and 18th centuries, the castle was used as a jail, as well as for storing grain. In the 1740s, a local Member of Parliament bought the castle and created the gardens surrounding it.
  • The gardens surrounding the castle attract over a million visitors each year. Some of the landscaping and layout of the 25 hectare park is still unchanged from Roman times.
  • Colchester Castle became a museum in 1860. The displays include gold coins which date from pre-Roman times, and a beautifully decorated pot known as the Colchester Vase.

What next? Discover some more facts about castles in Britain, or learn about the features of a castle.

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