Colchester's Military Heritage
Please visit the following links for more information.
Wouldn't it be good if we, the people of Colchester, or an official body of interested people, perhaps a Colchester Military Heritage Association, could be given some or all of the listed buildings for use as a museum complex? What if we were to be given the five listed buildings that the developers say are too expensive to convert into dwellings? Three stable blocks (CAV4, 5 and 6) and two barracks buildings (CAV7 and 8). These buildings are circled in the plan below.
There is a possibilty that these buildings could be handed back to Taylor Wimpey, who purchased them from the Ministry of Defense. But, what if we took them on instead? Highly unlikely, we realise that. It is the developers' aim to convert all of the building for housing. But if it did happen, we would need to take responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings, provided they were handed over in good order. This may also include taking a caretaking role for the listed Guard House cluster and the Hay Store building (CAV1 and 3), all as seen elsewhere on this page, coloured yellow. Together with the nearby Roman Circus House, the increased footfall and attractiveness to visitors would surely bring other opportunities for commercial use and a feel good factor to people living in such an attractive environment. Taking this a step further, couldn't you just imagine the 'old soldiers' making this their place of choice to talk about their days in the army and to 'man' the museum areas?
We would not need to do any major work on the buildings, as they are already near perfect for use to display military objects. The display possibilities are endless. Each regiment that served in Colchester could have its own space. If you take into account the first proper barracks from the 1800s, we have over 200 years worth of history to cover with displays, as well as perhaps other fringe subjects, such as the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, the Men who fought at Trafalgar, the Sea Cadets, The Air Cadets, the Territorials, the Royal British Legion, Royal Signals, REME, Balkerne Tower Trust, etc. Some space could be given over to the arts or to youth groups. Perhaps our industrial heritage could be represented with exhibits from the likes of Paxmans, the Lathe Company, Woods of Colchester, etc.
If we had all five buildings, it would take us a fair time to find suitable displays for everywhere so the whole thing would need careful planning to make sure that all areas and aspects of our military heritage were covered.
We would obviously need to clean up the sites, paint windows and woodwork, put electricity in, install fencing, security systems, signage, etc. As such, we would not have the building regulation issues to comply with, other than perhaps a change of use application. We would want to display items such as tanks, guns, vehicles, etc. that can withstand the weather, outside on full view, so that would need permissions. The museum would need to be staffed by volunteers only and would be a wholly private enterprise, run by the people, for the people. It would not be a first. Other people do it. So could we.
In that capacity we would apply for grants to assist us with building up the museum on a steady basis to turn it into a nationally renowned military museum complex. We are already familiar with what is possible in this regard and, having recently raised £250,000 for the nearby Roman Circus with the fabulous result that that produced, we have a track record to shout about.
It might be hoped that this whole thing could be allied to, the already in place, the hugely successful Roman Circus House, the directors of which have already cautiously welcomed this initiative and who could possibly be persuaded to provide the toilet and refreshment aspect of the museum complex and military heritage trail that would be developed. Car parking would be via the recently created Butt Road car park.
Would you like to be a member of a volunteer group to get involved with this, to the point of assisting with a group being set up to take over one or more of the buildings and to turn it or them into a military museum? Other towns and cities do it. Just imagine what York would do with them. There is funding available. What it needs though is commitment from the people and a willingness to adapt and move forward.
Please, if you support this idea, email us with your views, your recollections of time here, your military interests, offers to help, etc. The more people that sign up to this idea, the better chance we stand with those who make the decisions we need. If we don't try to do something now, yet more of our buildings could be lost in mysterious fires, hastened neglect or simple apathy.
Perchance to dream.
THE MODERN DAY BRITISH ARMY IN COLCHESTER
Colchester Garrison is currently home to the British Army's 16th Air Assault Brigade.The brigade has 3 air assault infantry battalions, 3 air assault aviation battalions, 1 artillery regiment, and supporting units (engineer, signals, logistics, medical). The Territorial Army is currently represented in Colchester by 36 (Eastern) Signal Squadron, 37 Signal Regiment (Volunteers).
Colchester Garrison has recently been redeveloped and now has one central camp called Merville Barracks. Merville Barracks houses the Head Quarters for 16 Air Assault Brigade, 18 Army Education Centre the WRVS centre and the living accommodation for unaccompanied or single Service Personnel. (as of October 2013.)
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
17th October 2013
4th October 2015