A brief look at Colchester

We were in Colchester at the beginning of September for a wedding so didn’t really do much in the way of exploring. Given my love for architectural styles I did have a brief wander around the Cultural area where we were staying to see what I could find.  It is of course a very old Roman town (Camulodunum ) and once the capital of Roman Britain, but was attacked and destroyed during Boudica’s rebellion in AD 61.

At only 50 or so miles north of London it is growing fast as a commuter town.

We stayed at the recently opened Greyfriars Hotel on the eastern edge of the High Street.  It is not only a beautiful C18th neo-classical building, but was for a hundred years a much-loved icon of educational excellence and, even centuries before 1755 when the current house was built, its site had religious, social and educational significance. Occupants have included friars, nuns, householders, clergy, physicians, horticulturists, an industrialist and students (young and adult). Empty from 2007 when sold by Essex County Council who decided it was no longer fit for purpose for education the building has been transformed.

The wedding we were attending was held across the road in the Minories – another lovely Georgian building and now an art gallery and centre for post-graduate study in art. This house in a very similar style to Grey Friars was bought in 1731 by Isaac Boggis a merchant in the wool trade.


Continuing along the High Street you reach Castle Park and another neo-classical designed Georgian house – Hollytrees – which was built in 1718 by Thomas Blagden for Elizabeth Cornelisen. It was completed by March 1719 but unfortunately Elizabeth passed away before she had the chance to live in it. It is now a museum (free entry) and forms the eastern part of Castle Park. Continue reading A brief look at Colchester

All Saints Church – Brightlingsea

After visiting the Beth Chatto gardens it was still too early to return to Mistley Thorn so we drove down to Brightlingsea, for no other reason than to see something of the Essex coast. However, if you look closely there is often something of interest to find. Brightlingsea has the distinction of being the only Cinque Port not within Kent or Sussex. It was not taken into the Confederation of the Cinque Ports until after 1353. As a thriving ship-owning port, in becoming a Limb of Sandwich it could contribute to that town’s ship-service quota.

The town has a history of shipbuilding and seafaring. In 1347 five ships and 51 men were sent to the siege of Calais. And ‘William of Brightlingsea’ was in Sir Francis Drake’s fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.


On our way in to the town we noticed a rather lovely church so decided to have a look inside on the way back. Continue reading All Saints Church – Brightlingsea

The Witch Finder General and Malthouses

Our first stop on the recent trip up the east coast of Britain was in a little place called Mistley which is situated on the River Stour in Essex. You may have heard of Manningtree which is a little further up the river as it is the smallest town in England. Mistley’s use as a port can be traced back to the Roman occupation with archaeological evidence indicating that a Roman road connected its riverside to the important garrison town of Colchester (Camulodunum).


Both Manningtree and Mistley are attractive towns with Georgian and Victorian architecture. Manningtree was a centre for cloth in Tudor times with barges transporting it to London and it is believed that the reference to Falstaff in Shakespeare’s Henry IV as “that roasted Manningtree Ox” relates to the practice of roasting a whole ox at the town’s medieval annual fair.


Mistley is also the village where Matthew Hopkins lived – the notorious Witch Finder General, who struck terror into the local community during the 17th Century.  Continue reading The Witch Finder General and Malthouses