Why is Colchester Britain's Oldest Recorded Town?

Depiction of Roman Colchester. Painting: Peter Froste
Depiction of Colchester by Peter Froste

Camulodunum in AD 77

The earliest record of the town's existence is a reference by the Roman writer, Pliny the Elder in AD77. In describing the island of Anglesey, he wrote that ‘it is about 200 miles from Camulodunum, a town in Britain'.

Camulodunum being the pre-Roman name for Colchester. This is the first known reference to any named settlement in this country.

Pliny died in AD79, one of the victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which destroyed Pompeii.

Historic Places to Visit

Today Colchester is a vibrant modern town with a rich heritage to discover

From a Roman Temple to cutting edge 21st century design, via Victorian splendour and medieval timber frames, panoramas of beautiful buildings reflect the town's history and contemporary appeal.

Plan your trip to discover Historic Sites such as:

Colchester Castle Museum

Colchester Castle Museum

Colchester

Colchester Castle is the largest Norman Keep in Europe. Constructed on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius. The Castle Museum today reveals many fascinating layers of history to visitors.

Gosbecks Archaeological Park Map

Gosbecks Archaeological Park

Colchester

The Archaeological Park is one of the most significant Iron Age and Roman sites in the country. Enjoy a walk and discover the highlights of the site with the interpretation boards around the Park.

St John's Abbey Gate

St John's Abbey Gate

Colchester

Dating from the 15th century this fine flint flushwork gatehouse just off St John's Green has a vaulted interior. It was the entrance to St John's Abbey precinct (demolished during the 16th century Reformation).

Dutch Quarter

Dutch Quarter

Colchester

Located just north of the High Street and includes: Maidenburgh Street, West Stockwell Street, East Stockwell Street, Stockwell Street, St Helen's Lane, Northgate Street and Nunn's Road.

Roman Church

Roman Church

Colchester

Dating from the 4th century AD the foundations of this church near the Police Station just off the Maldon Road roundabout is probably the earliest known Christian church in Britain.

Roman Circus Peter Froste CAT

Colchester Roman circus centre

Colchester

The Colchester Roman circus (chariot-racing arena) was discovered in 2005. It was built in the early 2nd century AD and seems to have been in use for about 150 years. It is the only known Roman circus in Britain.

St Botolph's Priory

St Botolph's Priory, Colchester

Colchester

The first English Augustinian priory church, founded at the end of the eleventh century from the Anglo-Saxon minster community of Colchester. Only the ruined remains of the nave survive today, under the care of English Heritage.

Balkerne Gate

Roman Wall/Guard Room/Triumphal Arch

Colchester

Colchester's Roman Wall is the oldest and longest surviving town wall in Britain.

St Martin's Church

Church of St Martin

Colchester

Built from recycled Roman brick

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

Colchester

The remains of the Roman theatre in the town centre can best be seen in Maidenburgh Street in the Dutch Quarter. Look for the darker paving in the road showing the outline of the theatre's walls.