Why is Colchester Britain's Oldest Recorded Town?

Learn more on our next Guided Tours

Depiction of Roman Colchester. Painting: Peter Froste

What happened in Camulodunum?

Pre-Roman Camulodunum was inhabited by the Trinovantes – a Celtic tribe which occupied most of the areas now known as Essex and Suffolk. Their powerful ruler, Cunobelin, was known by the Romans as King of the Britons.

Romans, under the direction of Emperor Claudius, invaded the town in 43AD, and Camulodunum became the capital of Roman Britain.

In 61AD Boudica, member of the Celtic Iceni tribe from Norfolk, led an army to sack Roman Colchester, burning the iconic town to the ground in protest.

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.

Sack of Roman Temple, painting by Peter Froste

Visit Britain's Oldest Recorded Town Today

See historic sites and artefacts dating back from the time of the Boudica, The Romans and the time around which Camulodunum is first mentioned.

Today in Colchester you will find:

Balkerne Gate, original entrance to the town, upgraded to a “Triumphal Arch” when Emperor Claudius invaded the town

The Roman Wall, built as defences around the town after 60AD after Boudica’s revolt

The Roman Circus, the only known Roman chariot-racing track in Britain

Mosaics from Roman households in various locations, including Firstsite and Colchester Castle

Romano-Celtic artefacts in Colchester Castle Museum, including household items, weaponry and coins.

Find out more about Roman Colchester

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.

St Martin's Church

Church of St Martin

Colchester

Built from recycled Roman brick

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.

Balkerne Gate

Roman Wall/Guard Room/Triumphal Arch

Colchester

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

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.

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 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.

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.