Colchester's Military Heritage

Please visit the following links for more information.

Introduction
What buildings still exist? 3
43 to 1750 2
1750 - 1860 4
1860 - 1900 5
1900 to present 6
A Museum? 7
Contact Us 8
Comments Received 9

Colchester Men at Trafalgar
Colchester Men at Waterloo
Colchester Men at Gallipoli
Colchester Men at the Somme

c1750 to c1860

The Napoleonic Period

Billetting of the Army in Colchester's Inns

(based on an article by Gerald Rickward, with additional information from the Victoria County History).

It was not until the outbreak of the Great French War in 1793 that barracks were built in Colchester and other towns up and down the country. Previous to that, regiments were billetted in small parties over a wide area in towns and villages. The system pressed heavily on, and was a source of grievance to publicans, only inns and taverns being liable under the Mutiny Act to receive billets. An entry in the corporation records in 1685 reads, "His Majestie's commission officers now quartering within the town be entertained with a bottle of wyne for ye joyfull news of ye defeat of ye rebells in the west." During the following year, mine host of the Red Lion was paid "the sum of five pounds for the quartering of several troopers more than his proportion he ought to have done." A return of the "Inns and Alehouses and their Stable Room and Bedding" sent to the War Office at this time shows there were at this time in Colchester 207 "Beds for Guests" and stabling for 460 horses, out of which civilian requirements would have to be met.

Not all inn-keepers were so obliging and complaints were general, a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1743 summing up their attitude in the words "the Landlord looks upon the Soldier as an Intruder forced into his House, and Rioting in the Sloth at his Expense." During the American War, the Ipswich Journal of November 21st, 1778, wrote that "the burden of the soldiery in Essex is found insupportable, particularly in Colchester, where the principal inns have 150 men each; a petition has been sent up to the war office praying relief."

The outbreak of hostilities with Republican France in 1793, and the prospect of a long war, led to a 'Humble Petition of the Innholders and Alehouse keepers' of Colchester begging the Corporation 'to give all possible Encouragement to Government building Barracks in the Town.' The pressing needs of the day led to prompt action being taken. By the time of the Peace of Amiens being signed in March 1802, wooden hutments for 5840 men had been erected.

Troops, often en route to the Continent, had been were billetted in Colchester from the late 17th century. In 1794 local innkeepers, concerned by the growing expense of the practice, petitioned the corporation for barracks to be built in the town and in the same year the first infantry barracks were built on 4 acres to the south-east. By 1800 additional infantry barracks, artillery, and cavalry barracks had been built on an adjoining 21 acres, the whole bordered by Magdalen Street (later renamed Barrack Street) on the north, Wimpole Lane on the west, and Port Lane on the east. In 1805 the barracks could accommodate over 7,000 officers and men and 400 horses. Much of the building was done by Thomas Neill.

After the Napoleonic Wars the barracks were reduced. When the disposal of barrack buildings began in 1816 the only people in the artillery barracks were 1 barrack serjeant and 12 patients in the hospital. Buildings, fixtures, and fittings of the cavalry barracks were sold in 1818. The sale of the older barracks, and the freehold site on which they stood, started in March 1817, but was not, for technical reasons, completed until 1840. In 1818 the government paid £5,000 for the continued use of 14 acres on which stood infantry barracks with accommodation for 51 officers, 800 men, and 16 horses. Those were the only barracks left in Colchester by 1821 when they were occupied by up to 16 officers and 602 men. The government also retained Barrack field, 23 acres south of the barracks bought for an exercise field in 1805, and the Ordnance field, 32 acres west of the barracks between Military and Mersea Roads in St. Botolph's parish bought in 1806. The 14 acres of land used in 1818 was given up before 1836, but leased again in 1856 for a temporary exercise ground. In July 1856, when 10,000 men of the German Legion occupied the barracks, 2,000 of them were housed under canvas on Barrack Field. (Between 1865 and 1878 the army allowed the Colchester and East Essex Cricket club to use part of the field; in 1885 the field was leased to the town as a recreation ground.)

 

For more information about the Garrison Church, please go here.

Whilst it is not directly relevant to Colchester's military heritage,

we must mention the Colchester men who fought with Nelson at the naval

Battle of Trafalgar

in 1804.

We have a separate website for this here. Please visit it.

 

 

 

Please click here for information about the few men that we know of who fought at the Battle of Waterloo.

It is our intention to commemorate the 200 year anniversary in 2015 and would love to know of Colchester men who were there.

 

CAMPAIGNS

 

Please visit the following links for more information.
Introduction
What buildings still exist? 3
43 to 1750 2
1750 - 1860 4
1860 - 1900 5
1900 to present 6
A Museum? 7
Contact Us 8
Comments Received 9
Contact the Webmaster

Page Created

17th October 2013

revised

31st October 2015

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