April 4 – A day trip to Colchester Castle

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We have been in Suffolk for nearly five months but have not yet been to Colchester, the oldest city in England, so today was the day. After finding a central car park which offered all day parking for £3.50 we walked the short distance to Colchester Castle. The road we walked down was full of barbers, hairdressers and manicurists.

In front of the castle gates was the impressive Victory sculpture war memorial, by Henry Charles Fehr, 1919 and there a 24 stage multi started which took us all the way around the park. This is the most involved multi we have ever done but I figured we were going to get to see all parts of the park of interest so I am glad we did it. Unfortunately, we made a couple of mistakes when collecting the data so we were unable to make the find at the end but I contacted the CO and he was good enough to put us right and so if we go to Colchester again we will be able to grab the cache. It is a lovely part in spring bloom with lots of daffodils and even a few very early bluebells. The flower beds were all freshly planted and quite a few other people were also enjoying the park especially at the playground which was full of children as it is Easter break.

We did several traditional geocaches on our way around the park and an earthcache on the Roman wall which was built during the Roman occupation nearly 2000 years ago. Much of the Roman wall and Colchester Castle is made of septarian nodules from London Clay. London Clay is a marine geological formation of Lower Eocene Epoch from ~56-49 Million years ago. Septarian nodules (also known as ‘septaria’) from the London Clay can be seen in old buildings in east Essex, particularly in churches close to the coast. The Romans used septarian nodules extensively; one surviving example is Colchester’s Roman wall. The earthcache was also to do with Ammonites, a type of fossil formed from creatures which existed during the Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous period ~251 to ~65 million years ago.

When we finished our lovely walk we went to the Colchester Castle which is a museum of history from Pre-Roman times to today and is laid out in chronological order. It had some lovely examples of mosaic floors from the 2nd-century. There was also quite a section of Boudica who was the was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60 or 61, and died shortly after its failure. She is a British folk hero. The Roman brick wall in its herringbone design is really impressive.

By the 13th century Colchester Castle was in use as a prison and at times many hundreds of prisoners of war were confined here in appalling conditions. Much of the castle was a ruin by the 16th century although it continued in use as a county gaol until 1668 and even after that was a prison until 1835. There was a very graphic video of conditions in the jail and the methods of torture especially of women thought to be witches. Basically what it came down to was once in prison there was no way out as they were tortured until they confessed, innocent or guilty.

There was also a copy of the Royal Charter of Richard II, 1378. A royal charter is a formal document issued by a monarch as letters patent, granting a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organisations such as cities or universities and learned societies.

After we left the castle we headed toward the car again picking up a couple of church micros on the way including one at the Lions Walk United Reformed church. Outside was an old tower which was part of the original church. We entered a trade aid shop to ask if we could see in the church and halfway up the stairs was an old stained glass window shown to its best as it had artificial light behind it. On reaching the top of the stairs we found a huge new church with fantastic modern stained glass. Usually, we do not go into new churches but we may need to start doing this as this church was impressive. It also had about ten wonderful flower displays.

We saw a sign to St Botolph’s Priory and just a block away we found ourselves at the English Heritage ruin. It was free to wander around but St Botolphs church which was also on the property was closed.

By then we had walked enough so we headed home having enjoyed a wonderful day in Colchester, the oldest city in England.