When in comes to people who have made their mark on history, Colchester actually has quite a few that orginate or have strong associations with it. From famous painters, musicians, warriors and kings to nursery rhyme writers, television presenters, scientists and Baptist Pastors. See below to find out who they are!
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Famous People From The Past
The Emperor Claudius
This famous Roman Emperor spent just 16 days in Britain, long enough to lead his troops into Camulodunum (the Britons' name for Colchester) and receive the submission of several British kings. Elephants accompanied him - animals the Britons would never have seen before.
Cunobelin (Shakespeare's Cymbeline)
Recognised by the Romans as the King of the Britons, he ruled from about AD5 to AD40. His wealth and status are illustrated by the gold coins which have been found in Colchester and locally and which carry the CVNO of his name and CAMV of Camulodunum. You can see these coins today in Colchester Castle Museum.
Roman Colchester was virtually destroyed in AD60 by Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, a native tribe living in the Norfolk area. Boudica led a major rebellion against Roman rule. Her husband, Prasutagus, had been one of the British rulers who submitted to the Emperor Claudius in AD43. After Prasutagus' death, the Romans assaulted his widow Boudica and her daughters, refusing to accept the women as the king's heirs. A revolt erupted and the Iceni joined forces with the Trinovantes to attack and burn Camulodunum. More than 60,000 people lost their lives.
Born in Colchester in 1544, he became Chief Physician to Queen Elizabeth I. However, he is best known as a pioneer investigator of electricity. He discovered the earth's magnetism and was the first person to coin the word ‘electricity', conducting some of the first real experiments in electromagnetism. He died in 1603.
Old King Cole
The nursery rhyme Old King Cole is based on a medieval story which tried to explain how Colchester got its name and why there are Roman ruins in the town. In the legend, a King called Coel ruled Colchester and had a daughter called Helena who was the mother of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great. The legend is also the reason why St. Helena is the Patron Saint of Colchester.
John Constable RA
This quintessentially English landscape painter was born at East Bergholt (a village north east of the town) in 1776. His world famous scenes of the Essex/Suffolk border are epitomised in The Haywain which can now be seen in the National Gallery.
Jane and Ann Taylor, authors of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'
The nursery rhyme 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' was actually composed rather than handed down in folklore as most people believe. Author Jane Taylor (1783 - 1824) and her sister Ann wrote it in 1806 as part of the book 'Rhymes for the Nursery'. At the time they lived in Colchester having moved here from Lavenham with their father Isaac Taylor, an engraver and Preacher, in 1793. The house where they lived in West Stockwell Street is marked with a blue plaque as is the one on Shilling Street in Lavenham. To find out more about the Taylors and see their Colchester house, take a guided tour available from the Visitor Information Centre. The National Trust also has a permananet exhibition (including paintings, books and personal belongings) on the Taylor family in the Lavenham Guildhall.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
The famous Baptist Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. He was born in Kelvedon on June 19th, 1834. His parents were strict Congregationalists. His father, John Spurgeon was in business and settled in Colchester around 1840. His mother was a Colchester woman (youngest sister of Mr C P Jervis of Colchester). The Rev C H Spurgeon, who early left the sect to which his parents belonged and joined the Baptists, became a preacher whose name is of world wide reputation. He frequently visited his native town of Colchester. After a lingering illness, he died at Mentone on January 31st, 1892.
Famous People In The Present
Colchester is famously the home town to Britpop group Blur. Damon Albarn, the group's lead singer and guitarist Graham Coxon went to Stanway School. They formed Blur with Alex James and Dave Rowntree whilst studying together at Goldsmith's College, London. Originally known as ‘Seymour' they performed at venues across the town, later moving to London and changing their name to Blur in the process.
17th Century author Daniel Defoe lived in Colchester, in what is now Mile End. The heroine of his book “Moll Flanders” also spends her early years in Colchester.
Dermot O' Leary
Born Sean Dermot Finton O'Leary in Colchester in 1973. After attending the Colchester 6th Form College, he gained a BA degree in Media & Television and worked as a DJ for BBC Radio Essex. His first TV job was as a runner. Dermot presented Channel 4's youth programme T4 for two years, Big Brother's Little Brother and Shattered amongst other prime time television such as Comic Relief. He currently presents BBC Radio 2's Saturday afternoon slot, and X Factor.