Roman Colchester

Camulodunum - The 'Fortress of the War God Camulos' - was the capital of Roman Britain and remains the oldest recorded town in Britain

The Roman town was, amongst many thing, home to 3 theatres- more than any other in Britain, as well as the only Roman chariot-racing Circus on the island. Large town houses have been uncovered with under floor heating and fine decorated mosaic floors.

Come and explore Camulodonum today, now of course known as Colchester. Discover its dramatic story from it's rise to the capital of Britain to it's destruction at the hands of Boudicca, Queen of the Celts.

The Balkerne Gate
The Balkerne Gateway - the largest surviving Roman gateway in Britain.

#RomanColchester on Instagram

Explore Roman Colchester

Download the Ancient Colchester App

Screenshot of the Ancient Colchester App

The Ancient Colchester App developed by Colchester & Ipswich Museums allows you to wander around Colchester Town Centre on a Heritage Trail and bring historic sites to life.

The Ancient Colchester is available to Download on iOS and Android.

Walk Colchester's Roman Walls

Colchester's Roman Wall on Priory Street
Pick up, or download a town centre map and take yourself on a self-guided tour of Colchester's Roman Walls. 

There are plenty of interpretation boards along the route to provide some history and context. A swift walker could easily speed around the walls in under an hour, but we recommend a more leisurely stroll, so allow yourself between 90 minutes and 2 hours - more if you fancy stopping for refreshments.

Download a Roman Audio Tour

Roman Colchester Audio Tour

Download a Roman Colchester Audio Tour, courtesy of our friends at Signals Media and listen to the insightful commentary whilst you follow the trail around Roman Colchester.

Start in the park, at the ruins of the Temple of Claudius, and take in sights including the Roman Wall, Theatre, Circus and more!

Visit Roman Colchester today

Castle / Temple of Claudius

Colchester Castle
Featuring an impressive museum with several important Roman finds, as well as guided tours to see the foundation of the temple on which it is built.
 

Claudius Gateway

Claudius Gateway
Privately owned coffee shop with the remains of the precinct around the Roman Temple set stylishly into the floor.

Roman Circus Centre

Roman Circus Centre
Britain's only known Roman Circus, featuring a recreation of the starting gates and an illuminating visitor centre.
 

 

Roman Church

Roman Church
The remains of a Roman Church - probably the oldest known Christian Church in Britain, dating from the 4th century AD.

Colchester's Roman Town Wall

Roman Wall on Balkerne Hill
The oldest and longest town wall surviving in Britain. Includes the largest surviving Roman Gateway in Britain, Medieval additions, civil war damage and more.
 

Berryfield Mosaic

Berryfield Mosaic
Roman Mosaic, housed in the floor of Firstsite contemporary art gallery, just metres from where it was rediscovered in the 1920s.

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre
The remains of what was once a 3000-seat theatre can be seen in the Dutch Quarter. View through the windows, or take a guided tour for access. 
 

Gosbecks Archaeological Park

Gosbecks Park
One of the most significant Roman sites in the country, the former site of a theatre, temple and portico which have now been indicated in outline on the ground.

The Roman Invasion

The Emperor Claudius spent just sixteen days in Britain, long enough to lead his troops into Camulodunum and receive the submission of several British kings. The Roman army then built a legionary fortress on the highest ground inside Camulodunum, the site of the present town centre.

By AD49 the fortress at Camulodunum had been turned into a civilian settlement named Colonia Claudia after the Emperor, and this became the first capital of the new Roman province of Britannia.

The colonia was populated mainly by retired soldiers, whose role was to spread Roman civilisation and keep an eye on the natives. Many of the military buildings were retained and converted, but the legionary defences were dismantled, leaving the town fatally unprotected. Large public buildings were constructed, including a theatre and a senate house. The grandest building of all was the Temple of Claudius, built to worship the Emperor after his death in AD54, when he was made a God.

Ermine Street Guard

The Boudican Revolt

Sack of Roman Temple, painting by Peter Froste
Sack of the Roman Temple during the Boudican Revolt, artistic depiction.

The Boudican Revolt

Colchester Castle stands on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius, and the foundations can be visited on guided tours which take place daily at Colchester Castle.

Roman Colchester was virtually destroyed a few years after it was founded. In AD60 Queen Boudica of the Iceni, led a major rebellion against the Roman rulers who submitted to Claudius in AD43. After his death the Romans assaulted his widow Boudica and her daughters, refusing to accept the women as the king's heirs.

A revolt erupted and Boudica led her followers against Camulodunum, the Roman capital. Here the Iceni joined forces with the Trinovantes to attack and burn the undefended town. Those who survived retreated to the town's largest building. The Temple of Claudius, but they could only hold out for a couple of days. The Temple, which had been paid for through local taxes and built with slave labour of the Britons, was a focus of hatred. It was burnt and all the defenders slaughtered.

Colchester rebuilt

Colchester was quickly rebuilt but this time the town was enclosed by a substantial defensive wall. Some two thirds of the wall still stand today and is the oldest town wall in Britain. A particular section of interest is Balkerne Gate, the original main entrance to the town.

The Gosbecks site is located on the south-western edge of Colchester as it is known today. Gosbecks was Cunobelin's (referred to as the King of Britons) royal seat at Camulodunum. After the Roman invasion, Gosbecks was allowed to continue as a flourishing native centre, watched over firstly by a Roman fort which could house 500 soliers. Nearby the largest of the five known Roman theatres in Britain was built, with seating up to 5000 people. There was also an impressive Romano-Celtic temple complex.

The discovery of the finest bronze figure from Roman Britain, nearby what is now the Mercury Theatre, shows that even native religion was becoming Romanised. Gosbecks can be visited as it being preserved as an Archaeological Park, and its various historic features are explained on site.

Reproduction of Gosbecks Archaeological Park
Gosbecks - Artistic Depiction