Whilst wandering around campus taking in all the activity and random goings-on can make for a perfect day at Uni, eventually you’ll want to escape the “bubble” and have a couple of hours away taking in the sights of somewhere different. Especially if you’ve spent days staring at a blank screen in the library or your bedroom!
So, once you’ve explored the lesser known bits of campus, why not explore the local town? Come as we explore the lesser know (and hopefully) interesting secrets of Colchester:
Firstly, Colchester is famously England’s oldest recorded town and Britain’s first Roman capital city (but alas, no longer a city in name).
Speaking of the Romans…
Colchester has Britain’s only Roman chariot racing arena (often called the Roman circus) and once had 2 of the 5 Roman theatres that existed in Britain.
What did the Romans ever do for us?
Well, they built a temple in Colchester, the remains of which are underneath the castle- which is the largest Norman keep in Europe. You can also get a student discount to visit the castle!
And what did the Tudors ever do for us?
Layer Marney tower near Colchester is the tallest Tudor gatehouse in the UK.
Something in the water
The great water tower at the top of the High Street was built to provide the town with fresh water. The 1.2 million brick structure was nicknamed “Jumbo” in the 1880’s, after an elephant from London Zoo.
Gotta have faith
During the course of its history, Colchester has had over 13 churches in the town centre area alone. Some no longer exist, but their remnants can be seen (just look for the random graveyards on Eld Lane and Culver Street West!). One church is now the Colchester Arts Centre, another is used a performance and community space and yet another is the Natural History Museum.
Allegedly the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” was about an incident that happened in Colchester during the Civil War in which a cannon (known as Humpty Dumpty) collapsed from the town wall.
Bring on the wall!
The Roman settlement of Colchester was completely surrounded by a wall, of which fractions still exist (that makes parts of it nearly 2000 years old!) You can walk the approx. 2 mile route of the wall around the town.
Hole in the wall
The pub called the Hole in the Wall is so called because the landlord knocked down parts of the wall so that his pub had a good view of the railway line at the bottom of North Hill!
Claim to fame?
The Atik nightclub in the High Street was previously called The Grand Theatre and before that it was called the Hippodrome- a venue in which a young Charlie Chaplin performed.
Also H.G. Wells’ darkly comic novel The History of Mr Polly is apparently inspired by a Mr Polley, who worked as a tailor on St Botolph’s Street.
Certainly Colchester is a great place to explore and is somewhere every student or visitor to the University of Essex should visit at least once.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of what there is to see in Colchester, hopefully it provides enough of an incentive to explore this great town further.