Tuesday, 13 December 2011
What have the Romans ever done for Colchester?
We stayed in the excellent Trinity Town House B & B, which was the home of John Wilbye, composer of the first Madrigal in the 16th century. Opposite was the pre-Norman Holy Trinity Church built from recycled Roman bricks and now a cafe with Tudor dancing.
Colchester Castle is also constructed from recycled Roman materials and you can stand in the very Roman vaults that were sacked by Boudica and see pottery blackened by the Iceni's fires. Stretches of the Roman wall around the city could rival Hadrian's Wall and there's the best-preserved Roman gateway in Britain in the Balkerne Gate.
Another piece to get Time Team buffs salivating is the Old Siege House restaurant where bullet holes from the civil war battle are still visible in the timbers. That is unless the bullet holes were just the result of spilling someone pint.
Colchester is hilly for Essex, and much more East Anglian in feel than Estuary Essex. The Christmas market and old buildings all added to the charm of Britain's oldest town. There's also a futuristic £28m Firstsite art gallery that looks a like an upturned Sydney Opera House and has works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Sarah Lucas.
Another interesting fact is that when the Romans invaded they regarded Cunobelin, the king of the Thinovantes tribe of Essex, as the king of all England. Before the Romans invaded in AD43 Colchester was Camulodunum, meaning 'the Fortress of Camulos" - the Celtic god of war. Proof indeed that Essex is well hard and should still be the capital of the UK.