Historic Colchester

Balkerne Gate by RT Photography

Discover Colchester’s History

Colchester is Britain’s Oldest Recorded town, with a recorded history stretching back 2000 years. Once the capital of Roman Britain, Colchester today proudly preserves and displays its history for you to discover.

From the Celts to the Victorians, via a colourful history incorporating Romans, Normans, Civil War and much more, Colchester's past is on display and waiting to be discovered by you, interwoven throughout the fabric of the town.

Read about the most important periods of Colchester’s past, and discover the best places to visit on your trip to Colchester.

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Historic Places To Visit

With many historic sites still standing, you can discover Colchester’s past simply by walking the streets, visiting museums, and exploring the events in town.

  • Discover Colchester Castle, the largest Norman Keep ever built, now home to a large collection of artefacts dating back to the Celts and Romans.
  • See the impressive ruins of St Botolph’s Priory, an English Heritage site of a former Augustinian Priory.
  • Visit the Roman remains still sitting proudly in the town, including Balkerne Gate, the Town Wall, a Roman Theatre and the Roman Circus
  • See St John’s Abbey Gatehouse, the remaining part of an important building in Colchester, now an English Heritage Site
  • Explore the Dutch Quarter, whose streets are lined with wooden-beamed Tudor housing, once home to Flemish weavers who made the town’s cloth industry world-famous.
Colchester Castle Museum

Colchester Castle Museum

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 Botolph's Priory

St Botolph's Priory, 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's Roman Wall is the oldest and longest surviving town wall in Britain.

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

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

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 John's Abbey Gate

St John's Abbey Gate

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

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

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.

Gosbecks Archaeological Park Map

Gosbecks Archaeological Park

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.

Hollytrees Museum

Hollytrees Museum

An important part of Colchester's rich history with three centuries of fascinating toys, costume and decorative arts displayed in an attractive Georgian town house from 1718.

St Martin's Church

Church of St Martin

Built from recycled Roman brick

Claudius Gateway

Claudius Gateway

Fascinating archaeological ruins and Museum forming the back drop for a stylish coffee house. All proceeds go to charity.

Colchester Museums



 Whilst you're visiting, explore Colchester's Museums to get a close up view of the town's history.

As well as preserving historic sites and displaying artefacts of historic importance, Colchester Museums run regular events and activities for all ages.