The Colchester Tourist Guide Association are providing a rare opportunity to train as a new guide, beginning in September 2021. We caught up with one of our existing guides, Kathryn Scholz, to find out a bit more about some of the stories you can get stuck into as an ambassador for the town.
Colchester Castle

History and spectacle may be meat and drink to a tour guide, but any feast is improved by the addition of a little salt, and stories are the salt of tour guiding; they season the plain facts of history and whet the appetite for the next course.

And what a history Colchester has! The streets of London may be paved with gold but few places in Britain can boast the panoply of ancient buildings that adorn the highways and byways of Colchester. Nor can many places lay claim to even a fraction of the momentous events that Colchester’s streets have witnessed. Not to mention the array of people whose footsteps have rung out as they variously sauntered, strode or pelted through the town as circumstance dictated. From the exalted to the lowly, the wealthy to the poor, the illustrious to the dubious, Colchester has had its fair share of characters across the centuries.

Which is all rather fortunate for a tour guide. With such a rich source of stories to draw on, the research is fascinating, but choosing which anecdotes to relate to your group of visitors can indeed be quite a tough decision, and reading your group is important.

The Saxon doorway at Trinity Church
What will interest them the most? Stories surrounding the fine architecture of St Botolph’s Priory, St Martin’s Church or the Victorian Baroque Town Hall? Or perhaps the origin of the Devil’s Doorway in Colchester’s oldest surviving church building: Holy Trinity. How about that fantastic feat of Roman engineering, the Temple of Claudius, and the Norman keep that sits atop it, or the curious connection between the Victorian water tower and an elephant called Jumbo?

Maybe ditties about exceptional events of derring-do would have more appeal: Emperor Claudius’ triumphant arrival in the area complete with armoured elephants; Boudicca’s burning of the Roman town and temple; the Siege of Colchester during the civil war with Parliamentarians baying for the blood of the Royalists holed up inside?

Perhaps they would be more interested in the prosaic pattern of daily life: a Roman litter lout’s lunch preserved for centuries in the Castle vaults; a bored Norman soldier’s graffiti on the Grand Stair? Or something a little more lively: Roman revels in the theatre?

Possibly you may sense they have a taste for the macabre and would relish terrible tales of torture in the Castle prison at the hands of the Witchfinder General, or nefarious goings-on in the graveyards as the body snatchers come to town.

Or maybe they are of a gentler persuasion and would enjoy stories of buried Roman treasure, both real and imagined, gasping as you list some of the finds of a 21st century archaeological dig, and chuckling as you recount an ill-fated 17th century attempt.

The Fenwick Treasure, discovered in 2017
Might their interest be piqued by yarns of real folk: an illustrious son of Colchester, such as Gilberd, the Father of Electricity, and his experiment with amber; or the eminent Yorkshire engineer, philanthropist and Colchester M.P., Viscount Cowdray, who gave so much to the town, and his unexpected link to Mexico, Porfirio Diaz and deep-sea divers? Perhaps the more mundane lives of Victorian tramps Teddy Grimes and Marmalade Emma might be more to their taste!

William Gilberd with Queen Elzabeth I

Whatever you decide, if you are lucky enough to be a tour guide in Colchester you will find it an enjoyable and rewarding experience. You have ample ingredients and avid visitors, ravenous for knowledge – a sure recipe for success.

Hailing from Yorkshire, serendipity played a large part in Kathryn Scholz’s move to Colchester and, years later, her qualification as a tour guide. Guiding has enabled her to connect with like-minded souls who have a fascination for the history of the town and wish to share their knowledge with others.

You can find more information about guided tours here, and how to become a Colchester Tour Guide here.Find out more about taking a guided tour




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