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PART

(for extra and for end)

of your 

GUIDED

TOUR

OF

COLCHESTER

Welcome to the final part of this, my

Magical History Tour.

I hope that you have enjoyed it so far.

This page gives a few extra bits that are not normally included within the standard walking tour. These are as follows:

 

The Queen Boadicea Statue at North Station Roundabout

St Botolph's Priory
The Garrison Church and Other Buildings
Gosbecks Archaeological Park
Audley Chapel at Berechurch
 

The Earliest Christian Church in Britain at Maldon Road Roundabout

St John's Abbey Gateway and St Giles Church
The Hythe and the University
St Leonard's Church

Hythe Hill

 

The Minories, East Hill, St James the Great Church and the New Gallery  

 

The Balkerne Hill Sculptures and Other Murals

Finch's Almshouses, Riverside
The Spurgeon Chapel  

 

The Bandstand in the Castle Park and other points of interest.

 Once more, before we set off (and to give the pictures time to load), perhaps I ought to say a little bit more about our history, so that you can fit in the places and buildings that we'll see with the events that produced them.

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The unwelcome visit by Queen Boadicea of the Iceni tribe, around the year AD 60 has led to her becoming a folk legend of particular relevance to Colchester. So much so that a modern sculpture of her was commissioned and now stands proudly at the centre of a roundabout near North Station. Like it or loathe it (I love it!), it is a formidable image of this warrior queen who wreaked such devastation on this town all those years ago.

QUEEN BOADICEA

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 The Siege of Colchester of 1648, also had a devastating effect on our town. Many of our finest buildings were damaged or destroyed by cannon balls from Roundhead fire. Indeed, it was only special pleading which prevented our Roman walls from being pulled down, after the conflict, as Parliament wanted an assurance that Colchester would never again be able to defy government forces so effectively. The town was fined very heavily for its defiance which led to a considerable decline in its prosperity and the well being of its populace.

 

ST BOTOLPH'S PRIORY  

 

The dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII in the 16th century, led to our St Botolph's Priory falling into decline - but it was the cannon ball that reduced it to the sorry state that it is in now. It must have been a wonderful building in its day.

St Botolph's Priory was the first Augustinian priory built in this country, having authority over all other houses of the order in this country. It was founded between 1093 and 1100 and had thirteen inmates, comprising one prior and twelve canons, typifying Christ and his disciples. It was never a wealthy endowment, despite its seniority amongst Augustinian houses.

 

Regrettably, the priory grounds are now the haunt of Colchester's misfits and this should be borne in mind when making a visit. They are no particular threat but can cause a degree of concern sometimes.

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THE GARRISON

Discounting the presence of barracks erected by the Romans shortly after they conquered Britain, Colchester has long been known as a garrison town. The first official barracks were constructed during the Napoleonic wars of the late 18th century. The Crimean War of the 1860's brought further barrack construction, later to be replaced by the brick built barracks of Hyderabad and Meanee in the 1890's. The Infantry and Cavalry barracks stand today as a reminder of past times and have preservation orders placed on them because of their uniqueness. At the height of war, the Cavalry barracks housed 3000 men and 5000 horses, some of the barrack blocks constructed so that a cavalryman slept in a room above his horse's stable.

Today, Colchester proudly hosts the Parachute Regiment, who have recently made Colchester their regimental headquarters.

Colchester also has a place known by many past soldiers as 'The Glasshouse' (named after the military prison at Aldershot which had a glass roof) building, the army military corrective centre - the jail. It was the abolition of capital punishment in the 1860's, when a soldier could be flogged until close to death, that brought about the need for jails for an alternative punishment. Previously the punishment fitted the crime and that was the end of it.

The area is undergoing much change at the moment and the old Victorian buildings are awaiting development. That is why the following picture taken at the Cavalry Barracks a few years ago shows such decay. These are protected buildings so they should survive for many years to come as unique examples of Britain's military heritage. The present day military personnel have new quarters to the south of the town and developers Taylor Wimpey and Bovis Homes are making a huge difference in this area with new housing.

To see how these buildings once looked and were used, you could take a look at some old postcards here.

The following picture is of the 1856 built, Crimean War, church. It is the largest timber building in Britain and was made to a similar design to the wooden hospitals that were sent out for use by Florence Nightingale on the battle front. It became redundant in 2007 and an alternative use was sought. It became, once more, a place of worhip. The Orthodox Russian Church won their bid to take over the building. Good news for them and for our preserved heritage.

The church is built on a Napoleonic period graveyard, the grave stone here, to Thomas Morris, dating from 1806.

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GOSBECKS

The Gosbecks Archaeological Park is located in the position where it is believed once was the heart of Iron Age (Celtic) Camulodunum. It is believed that it was here that a powerful tribal people, known as the Trinovantes, once lived.

These ancient Britons were renowned warriors who were adept at fighting from horse drawn chariots, making use of the protection given by their defensive dyke system (earth mound walls) that they constructed over the centuries. The area is relatively flat, the land fertile and free draining, and is close to what we now know as the Roman River. It was probably here that the Emperor Claudius came with his Roman army in the year AD 43 to take the surrender of several British tribal leaders (or kings). This was the seat of the most powerful of the British tribal leaders.

The Iron Age Dyke System - Camulodunum (fortress of the celtic war god Camulos) was protected by an extensive system of banks and ditches from the first century BC. These dykes (as they are known) helped to enclose an area of 12 square miles (? hectares), forming part of a complex series of defences which included the natural barriers of the River Colne and the Roman River. The main period of construction came under Cunobelin, who was known to the Romans as 'King of the Britons'. There were two main centres of activity within the dyke system. One at Gosbecks and the other at Sheepen. The outermost dyke on the west side was Gryme's Dyke, which was probably the last major addition to the system. It was constructed around the time of the Roman conquest of AD 43. Gryme's Dyke can still be followed for most of its 6km length. It consists of a 12 metre wide bank, much of which survives to more than half of its original 3 metre height. On its west side was a ditch, 9 metres wide and 4 metres deep, which is now mostly silted-up. There is also good evidence of the other dykes in the system. All have different names. In the past 100, or so, years, these dykes have been protected and nobody is permitted to do anything that might damage them.

Clear evidence has been found of a pre-Christian (Pagan) temple comprising a large square ditch with a single entranceway. It had an inner, four sided, roofed structure, although this was probably added by the Romans at a later date. The Romans clearly realised the social and cultural importance of this site and must have worked closely with the indigenous population to bring a civilising influence to a new Britain under Roman control.

Inside the temple area, there appears to have been a temple structure which was offset from centre, as can be seen in the picture below. This was clearly a site of great spirituality and is one that is of great interest to archaeologists and historians alike. Up until the 1980's the Barbour family had been farming the area. Deep ploughing techniques and the damage it can do to archaeological remains was of great concern and, in return for building planning concessions, the land that we now know as the Gosbecks Archaeological Park, was given to the nation (administered by English Heritage), whereupon the park became a protected site.

The original structures have disappeared in antiquity, their foundations extensively robbed out, the ditches filled in. The building materials were probably harvested several hundred years later to assist with the building of Norman Colchester. The interpretation boards show how things might once have been.

Colchester is unique in that it not only has the only Roman circus in Britain but it also has two Roman theatres. This is clear demonstration of just how important Colchester was to the Romans. The theatre that was discovered at Gosbecks is still possible to make out as a definite raised area, probably from a time when the tiered seating used grass turf. One of the display boards has a very grand looking structure which has been conjectured from archaeological evidence. Only five such theatres are known throughout the whole of Roman Britain - and we have two of them. Please see the virtual tour that deals with the Dutch Quarter of Colchester, for the other theatre. Please also remember that a theatre was very different to an amphitheatre. Roman amphitheatres exist in Europe and were used for sporting interests rather than the academic use of theatres. We don't believe that we would have had any Christians being fed to the lions or gladiatorial combats. The Gosbecks area, the original Camulodunum of antiquity, became the place where the indigenous British people could live in peace, watched over by their Roman masters a short distance away in what we now know as Colchester's town centre. With its temple and theatre, this must have become a place of peace and culture, rather than where the most powerful tribes lived and fought from.

The Iron Age defensive dyke system which surrounds this site and is in evidence all around modern Colchester, are truly impressive and stand as a testament to the importance of the area, the like of which is not to be found anywhere else in Britain. The site is scheduled for future development as a place of historic interest, funding and further archaeological excavations being under consideration by English Heritage.

There were plans to build an interpretation centre here to explain the significance of this site. However, the plans had to be shelved, mainly due to a lack of the necessary funding. Meanwhile Sutton Hoo achieved what we failed to do. Today, the site is preserved as a large open space, very popular with dog walkers.

With a little imagination, one can take oneself back in time to a time when King Cunobelin lived here (around the years AD 4 to 40), with characteristic Iron Age round houses dotted about, smoke drifting through their roofs, livestock in pens, children playing, battle hardened warriors testing their skills with their weapons and chariots, etc. But wouldn't it be so much better if we had our interpretation centre with a reconstructed round house and an opportunity for modern-day people to experience how things must once have been?

We cannot leave this section of our tour without mentioning the nearby Stanway site, extensively excavated by the Colchester Archaeological Trust in the 1980s and 90s (and more recently in 2015). The Stanway site was mainly a funerary site which appears to have started in the second or third centuries BC as a small farmstead which was later enlarged with the addition of enclosures to become a burial place. It lay beyond the outermost of the earthworks which protected Iron Age Colchester. Archaeological excavations took place to keep in front of the advancing face of the quarry that has since completely obliterated the burial site.

For more information please visit this link here.

More information about Gosbecks may be found here.

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AUDLEY CHAPEL

A short way away from Gosbecks is the church at Berechurch where is to be found the Audley Chapel, a 16th century family chapel with a fine hammerbeam roof and monuments to the Audleys and other families. The following pictures were taken during a Heritage Open Day in 2006.

In the churchyard outside is a tomb to the Ward family, recording the life of one remarkable man.

James Ward.

James Ward sailed on the third voyage on the Resolution as an A.B. (24) until 01 November 1777.

He then became a midshipman until 02 November 1779 when he reverted to being an A.B. He was the first aboard to see the Hawaiian Islands in 1778.

The Ward family owned West Donyland, on the southern edge of Colchester. James's grandfather, Knox Ward, who was Clarenceux King of Arms from 1726 to 1741, acquired the property in 1736. At his death in 1746 it passed to his son, Ralph Ward. Ralph and his wife Ann were the parents of James Ward, who was born in 1761.

Ward attended the Naval Academy at Portsmouth from 1772 until 1775 where he became a close friend of Trevenen. After the voyage, he became a lieutenant in August 1782 and saw service in the East Indies under James Burney. He died on 28 September 1806 and was buried at St. Michael's, Berechurch outside Colchester.

These notes were compiled by John Robson a New Zealand member of the Captain Cook Society. Please go here for more information about this Colchester Hero.

His memorial inscription states that he sailed the world with Captain Cook.

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EARLIEST CHRISTIAN CHURCH IN BRITAIN?

Just outside the Head Gate area of the Roman Colonia, adjacent to the present day Police Station, was discovered the remains of a church like structure, dateable to AD 320 - 340. The Romans officially became Christians in 313 and this church may well be the earliest known Christian church in Britain. In Roman times, the dead were not allowed to be buried within the walls and a vast area in the vicinity of this church was used for both post and pre-Christian burials, identifiable by whether they were inhumations or exhumations. Literally hundreds of graves have been excavated by the archaeologists, mainly in the 1970s, although many must have been destroyed in Victorian period when the area was quarried for sand and the land used for buildings.

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ST JOHN'S ABBEY

 A short distance away towards St Botolphs, but still outside the walls, St John's Abbey was built in the latter part of the 11th century. The abbot of St John's became a very powerful individual, much hated by the townspeople. There is now no evidence of the original building which fell into decline after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. Part of its buildings became the home (around 1560) of the Lucas family but now, all has gone, with nothing of the period to be seen but the gate and St Giles Church close by.

These pictures were taken during a guided tour in June 2008.

This shows the stone vaulting of the gateway giving a clue as to how magnificent the abbey itself must once have been.

This is a view inside the room above although this was a result of the substantial refurbishment of the gateway done in the 1870s, when the building was in a very poor state of repair. The room is accessed by a very narrow spiral staircase.

This is the view to the north from the window. If the St Botolphs redevelopment goes ahead, the view will change considerably from this in the future.

Compare this view today with the postcard below, dated around 1904.

Taking a walk around the perimeter of the site, one can see plenty of evidence of the abbey.

Here, a doorway into military premises shows various stone carvings that must once have decorated a section of the abbey.

Here is evidence of the abbey's outer perimeter wall in Flagstaff Road, with evidence at low level of drains or windows. Note the use of reclaimed Roman materials.

This is a view through the perimeter fence of a section of the abbey wall that has recently been scheduled. Its position is directly over the east end of the 'spina' that, some 1800 or so years ago, was part of the recently discovered Roman circus. For more details of that amazing discovery, please go here. All of this area (in 2016) is part of a site that is being developed for other uses, since the garrison has moved away to another part of the town. But before we go, the following images are taken from the only picture that is known of St John's Abbey and dates from the 17th century. In recent times, a replacement Officers' Club was built on the site of the abbey, to replace the previous club that had burned down. Before that could happen, the archaeologists went in to see what could be found of the abbey. With the help of this picture they were able to show that the picture's architectural features were accurate. So there we have it, Henry 8th and his marital difficulties have a lot to answer for.

 

 

 

 

...and so, the impressive St John's Abbey gate is all that still survives of this once great monastic building, as does some of its perimeter wall along Mersea Road. The nearby St Giles church, part of the St Johns Abbey complex, still stands and is now a Masonic Hall and Banqueting Centre..

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ST GILES

The church of St Giles was made redundant in the 1980s and it saviour was the adoption by a Freemason Lodge who took it on as their base and which has ensured its future. Now closed to the public, we were able to visit with a group in June 2008, when the following pictures were taken for this, your vitual tour of St Giles Church.

A view from the north west.

A view from the south west. The church graveyard was converted into a car park and many of the graves were desecrated and removed elsewhere, including the remains of the Lucas family.

 

The church has many fine stained glass windows (presumably from the Victorian period). 

 

 

When we visited, the church was laid out in radiness for entertaining the members of the Lodge. The masons keep the building in very good order.

Bottom left of the picture above, on the south wall, is to be found an inscription to William Cock; a colourful incumbent of the church in the early 17th century.

 Elsewhere are two coffin plates, rescued from coffins belonging to the Lucas family. They were Royalists and the families tombs had been desecrated by the parliamentarians during the civil war. It was a time in England's history that brought out the worst in men with atrocities committed by both sides. It is little wonder that we protect our monarchy now for fear of the alternative that Oliver Cromwell brought upon us.

 ...and below, a closer view of the plates.

Below is the stone slab that once laid in the floor of the church to cover the remains of two heroes of the Civil War - Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle. Both were executed by Cromwell's men after the Siege of Colchester in 1648. On the restoration of the monarchy after Cromwell's death, King Charles II was to have his revenge on the parliamentarians.

 Also in the church is a memorial to the the men of the parish who gave their lives during the 1914-18 war.

 Below is a view of the roof structure of the church. 

 ......and outside again to see how the church has been modified over the years.

 A few gravestones survive but most have been lost or destroyed.

 The original St John's Abbey wall survives in places, the section below having been cut through to give access to the car park behind the church.

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THE HYTHE AND THE UNIVERSITY

 The Essex University was constructed in the 1960's and stands to the east of the town towards the town of Wivenhoe. The picture (looking east) below shows it in the distance, with King Edward Quay in the foreground. The Hythe area in general, is undergoing great changes at the moment following the closing of the once important dock area of the town, where the Romans would once have brought their goods to Colchester.

 

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ST LEONARD'S CHURCH

on Hythe Hill

A redundant church, although you wouldn't know it.

It has an active bellringing group and services are held at certain times. It is usually open to the public on Heritage Days. Photographs of the war memorials inside the church are shown elsewhere on the Colchester Heroes pages.

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and back into the town centre,

EAST HILL and THE MINORIES, EAST HILL HOUSE and ST JAMES THE GREAT CHURCH

This area of Colchester is undergoing great change with the building of our new art gallery to be known as Firstsite:Newsite. Nearing completion, it would not serve well to show pictures of it yet and you will have to wait a while longer before we can show you around.

The Minories, an 18th century building that was built by a wealthy bay maker, William Boggis. Until recently, it served as one of the town's art galleries. The following picture is of a building that stands in its gardens.

In the garden is a curious folly building, the purpose of which seems to have been lost with time. Perhaps simply - a piece of folly!

St James the Great on East Hill is one of our oldest churches. This view is looking in a north easterly direction.

Followed by a few pictures of the inside of the church.

 

Arthur Winsley's Monument

The Font

A list of incumbents from St Nicholas and St Runwald Churches

both demolished.

Roll of the Fallen from St Pauls Church

also demolished.

Some much older views of the church can be seen in the postcard section of the Camulos site here.

 

Adjacent to the church is East Hill house. This view looks north. The building was sold in 2008 for development so it will be interesting to see how this view has changed in years to come.

Below is a view looking north east of what is known as Greyfriars, a name given to the original buildings that stood on the site from when it was a friary with grey clothed friars. Friars go out and about to preach, Monks do not! Again, like East Hill House, this building has recently been sold for development.

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On

BALKERNE HILL

we have some fine sculptures at St Mary's car park, which was opened in 1981. Those shown in the following picture originally came from the two niches (now windows) in the building previously known as the Albert Hall in High Street (shown inset, one modern day, one 1870's). However we cannot be sure that they were the actual ones shown in various old pictures of the building as they look quite modern. They may have been intended for replacement of older ones. Can anybody answer this for us please? It is now the Co-operative Bank. The building was built in 1845 as our corn exchange, then becoming our reperatory theatre and finally, after a period of redundancy in the 1970's, a bank. These two sculptures are (we believe) depictions of the Greek goddess Demeter (known by the Romans as Ceres) and were intended to represenent ancient and modern agriculture. They may have been made to designs by Raphael Brandon. Demeter was the sister of Zeus. Her name means "barley-mother" or "mother earth" and goddess of fertility. Sacred to her are livestock and agricultural products (with the emphasis on corn), poppy, narcissus and the crane. In the left hand sculpture she holds a spade. She is holding on to a tree of some sort. There is also a ring of various signs of the zodiac. In the right hand sculpture she holds a sickle and a sheaf of corn. An elaborate vine is also depicted.

A short way to the south is a beautiful sculpture by local sculptor Shirley Morrison entitled 'Mother and Child'. It was placed into a specially constructed 'grotto' shortly after the statue was created in the 1980's. Why this choice of subject was made, we do not know.

see ECS 04121981 and ECS 02061972 and ECS 09061972

Just a short distance away from these sculptures, up the hill and into the recently built 'Balkerne Heights' development, is to be found this very attractive communal area and, in particular the modern mosaic that is its focal point. This piece of Roman style work, created by Ann Schwegmann-Fielding, was unveiled by the Mayor of Colchester in June 2006 (ECS 090606).

There are 17 other sculptures in the form of murals, produced by artists Henry Collins and Joyce Pallot in the 1970's and located in various underpasses that were built during the development of Southway. We hope to show pictures of these at a later date.

The following three pictures are further murals from Kingsway in the town centre, just off Queens Street.

The following murals are taken from the Southway Underpass by Abbeygate Street.

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On

THE RIVERSIDE ESTATE

can be seen restored monumental inscriptions taken from Finch's Almshouses that once stood on the site.

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THE SPURGEON CHAPEL

All Christian preachers will know the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon; perhaps the greatest preacher that ever there was. He was born in Kelvedon but grew up in Colchester. He was converted in this modest little Primitive Methodist chapel in Artillery Street in 1850. Go here for more information.

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 and finally, back to our wonderful Castle......

to parts of the grounds that are not generally visited on the standard tour.

 

The Victorian Bandstand

 Followed by images of the area known as Duncan's Gate in the north face

of the Roman wall.

At the foot of the park, on the north face of the Roman wall, was discovered a postern gate, named Duncan's Gate, in memory of the Victorian gentleman who discovered it. It is closed off to the public because of its poor condition and because of the presence of an impressive drain that passes underneath it. This drain is at least 100 metres in length and runs up the hill towards the castle. Some time in antiquity, probably in the last years of the Roman period, it appears that the gateway was destroyed by fire, the top archway of the structure collapsing and still laying where it fell. The steps shown are a modern addition.

A later archaeological excavation uncovered evidence of Roman period houses in the castle grounds. This picture shows the original tessellated floor surface.

 

 A short distance away may be seen a section of the perimeter wall that would have formed a boundary around the Claudian temple, the site of which lies under our magnificent Norman castle, as seen in the background.

 

These pictures show just one of the stele (but perhaps the most impressive) that has been discovered and now housed within the Castle Museum. This is the tombstone of a Thracian Auxiliary Cavalryman by the name of Longinus Sdapeze, dated around AD60 and perhaps thrown to the ground in disgust by Boudicea's forces during their rampages. There it lay for almost 2000 years, until its chance discovery in 1928 by local workmen.

This picture is of a copy of the stele, now held in the British Museum. It shows how the original item might once have looked. The inscription reads:

Longinus Sdapeze

Matygi duplicarius

ala prima T(h)racum pago

Sardi(ca!) anno(rum) XL aeror(um) XV

heredes exs(!) testam(ento) [f(aciendum)] c(uraverunt)

h(ic) s(itus) e(st)

Roughly translated as:

Longinus Sdapeze, son of Matygus,

from the town of Sardica duplicarius of the Ala I Thracum, 40 years of age, served 15 (years),

lies here. His heirs had (this tombstone) set up by testament.

Or, in other words, Longinus Sdapeze was the second in command of a Thracian cavalry unit, an auxillary soldier (not a Roman). Longinus was his Roman name, Sdapeze was his tribal name. He died in Colchester after fifteen years of service to the Roman army. It indicates that the 40 year old Longinus was born in the area of the modern day Sofia, capital city of Bulgaria. It reveals that he was a duplicarius, one of the highest paid cavalry positions. His heirs erected the tombstone, according to his will, probably funded from the contributions given by fellow soldiers to provide such a stone. Longinus died in AD49, soon after the invasion in 43, suggesting that he may have come to Britain with Claudius's invasion force, and possibly marched into Colchester in the emperor's procession. It is the oldest Roman gravestone in Britain.

The tombstone shows fine detail of his attire, in particular, detail of the scale-armored cuirass (lorica squamata), a coolus helmet, an oval shield and the elaborate bronze phalerae covering the strapping on the horse’s harness. The fallen warrior (presumably representative of a Briton) is in a foetal position being trampled underneath the horse. A powerful message, bound to anger the indigenous population. His spear has been broken in antiquity.

If you would like to see a little more of the inside of the castle, please click here. I think that you will find it of interest!

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Email me at:

Sdapeze@aol.com

Please tell your friends about this site - or better still, visit our wonderful town and see it first hand. If you would like to leave a virtual tip, sorry, I have gone to the virtual pub for a virtual pint of beer. See you down there! To revisit any part of the tour, please click on any of the following:

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This tour has proved to be very popular, receiving many internet 'hits' from all over the world. If you would like copies of any of the pictures we will be happy to send a copy to you, completely free of charge. What we would particularly like is if you would do a non-virtual tour of Colchester. Please visit us some day.

To see more of Colchester's heritage sites, please explore the following links:

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Heritage Trail

 

 

 

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