An attractive place of great character, Colchester’s proud boast of being Britain’s oldest recorded town reflects its long history. It was first mentioned in AD77 by Pliny the Elder under its Roman name, Camulodunum, where Boudica led a bloody uprising against the occupying forces. In Tudor times, the loyal inhabitants were subjected to siege by Cromwell’s forces during the Civil War, and the area saw action again in World War II when it played a vital part in Britain’s air defences. Today it is a garrison town, currently home to the 16th Air Assault Brigade, and one of only 12 towns in the country to fire a Royal Salute to mark royal anniversaries and state visits by foreign dignitaries
As well as its military connections, Colchester used to be a major port and had important trade links. When Flemish weavers were fleeing religious persecution in the 16th century, they came to Colchester and settled in what is now known as the Dutch quarter, where their picturesque timber-framed houses can still be seen in their original state.
Like many thousands of other visitors during its long history, Colchester today is popular with tourists, who admire its attractive old buildings, alleys and cobblestones. It is a charming mix of small, specialist shops in quaint back streets like Eld Lane and Trinity Street, and the Red Lion Walk which passes under a 15th century pub, and contemporary shopping facilities based around Culver Square, with its water feature, entertainment and Friday street market. It also has its own independent department store, the award-winning Williams & Griffin. Being only 60 miles (97 km) from London with good road links, it is easily accessible from the capital, and convenient for tourists arriving at Stansted Airport; one of the easiest means of getting around is by using a reliable taxi and minibus company such as Sky Transfers.
As well as shopping, visitors have a choice of attractions to see, from Colchester Castle and Museum with its impressive display of Roman exhibits and guided tours, to the award-winning Zoo on the outskirts of town, situated in 60 acres of attractive parkland and lakes. The town boasts several museums and art galleries, a cinema and a theatre; the arts are well-represented as the Colchester School of Art and Design is located in the town centre. The Visitor Information Centre in Queen Street can provide all necessary information about attractions and places of interest.
Colchester is well-known for its oysters, which are farmed locally, and has an annual Oyster Feast in the Town Hall. It also has a claim to several famous people. William Gilbert, a 15th century pioneer in the field of magnetism and court physician to Elizabeth I and James I, lived here; his house is now home to Tymperleys Clock Museum. Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s only female Prime Minister to date, lived here in the 1950s; and in 1806 Jane Taylor, who lived in the Dutch quarter, wrote a poem called ‘The Star’, which has been immortalised as the children’s verse, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.