“ Colchester castle in Colchester, Essex, is an example of a largely complete Norman castle, built in the same style as the White Tower of the Tower of London. In fact, Colchester Castle is half as big again as the White Tower. It is a Grade I listed building. The castle was ordered by William the Conqueror, designed by the Bishop of Rochester and the building was supervised by Eudo Dapifer, who became steward of the royal castle after it was built. Building began between 1069 and 1076 under his direction. „
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Colchester is the oldest recorded market town in the UK, so naturally, if you visit then you really cannot miss seeing the lovely castle museum. Not only is it a very interesting place, it's location is also superb, standing just inside the magnificent Castle Park. It is easy to find, just follow the high street till you get to the gates of the park and you cannot miss it! There is no parking at the castle but the nearest car-park is not too far away in the town centre.
Steeped in history, the castle was built by the Normans and stands on the site of the Roman temple of Claudius. Parts of the temple are still in evidence deep under the castle in the vaults. The castle has remained a focal part of Colchester for centuries and is beautifully preserved. It was once prison to the witches that the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, had tried and executed in 1645.
It is now a museum and has a vast array of historical artifacts, not just from the Colchester area, but from all over the world.
I have visited this castle ever since I was a child and have seen it change over the years. It has always fascinated me and is still a stunning place to visit, with many different exhibitions that chart the history of the castle and the town of Colchester. They have audio-visual dramas that you can sit and watch which tell the story of Boudica, who ransacked the town and burnt it to the ground, of the siege of Colchester, which took place during the English Civil War and what it was like in the prisons of the castle all those centuries ago. The films really bring the castle to life and are very educational for people of all ages.
Children will enjoy trying on a toga and chain-mail and are able to touch real roman pottery. There is even an Egyptian mummy, though at the time of writing, this is on loan to another museum for a few months.
If you love history and castles, then Colchester Castle is well worth a visit. It's entrance fees are very reasonable and start at £3.80 for children and concessions and £6.00 for adults, with reduced fees for group bookings. Children under the age of 5 go free.
You need to allow about one and a half to two hours for your visit. There is a small café and toilet facilities in the castle. There is very good access for disabled people, with ramps on the ground floor and a lift that takes you up to the first floor. Staff are really friendly and helpful. As you leave the castle there is small shop that sells a good range of gifts.
Colchester castle is really well worth a visit and has something for all ages to enjoy. I love the place!
Colchester, the oldest town in England... Lets face it, if you are on a visit to Colchester it would be foolish to miss Castle Museum. Its very close to the town centre, located in Castle Park.
It is an impressive sight, a proper sized ancient castle with a moat surrounding it kept in fanstastic condition.
Walking through the castle takes you through a chronological journey from pre Roman times until the English civil war. The emphasis is upon what took place in the castle and Colchester itself, but historical events about other parts of Eastern England within this period are included. There is particular focus on famous figures such as Boadica, Queen of the Iceni and her tribe's uprising and eventual defeat to the Romans.
As part of the castle's history there is a great film that you can sit down and watch that describes the seige of the castle from the point of view of the trapped Romans inside it. The voice acting and pictures provided are very convincing.
There are collections of coins and of ancient weapons found on display and occasional pieces of art from the period.
Downstairs there are interactive exhibits including recordings about a prisoner's life in the cells in the castle and explanations on why / how women were accused of being witches and how this was a profitable enterprise for their custodians. Pretty atmospheric stuff in parts, the odd blood curdling scream, interesting (but not spectacular) effects etc.
Mostly its very impressive but one also gets the feeling when looking down from the first floor over the main area that the castle looks a little more like a theme park than a serious historical museum. Sadly, it might have something to do with the organised sections of childrens exhibits. It loses a bit of authenticity in this way.
There is also an area within the castle where you can sit down and buy basic refreshments, although you are not allowed to consume anything in other areas.
The musuem shop itself has a number of items on sale including the usual postcards, keyrings and pens. There are also some books containing photographs available I remember thinking they were reasonably priced.
The entrance fee is £5.70 for adults and £3.60 for children. You have an option to pay an additional £2 for adults and £1 for children for a guided tour, where you will see areas such as the Norman chapel and the castle roof, which you can't access paying the normal fee.
Situated just off the High Street in Colchester, the Castle Museum is a wonderful place to while away a few hours while learning more about the history of Britains oldest recorded town. The castles story began during the era when Colchester was the first capital of Roman Britain and the Temple of Claudius was situated on the site. It was in this temple that the Roman colonists sheltered from Boudica and her rebel hordes, and where they were subsequently slaughtered. In later years William I (The Conqueror) ordered a fort to be built on the site, and this is the largest fort of its kind in Britain and the largest surviving Norman fort in Europe. For many of the intervening years Colchester Castle was employed as a prison, housing witches, traitors and heretics, among others. For the last 146 years the castle has housed a museum and it is to this museum that I went one afternoon last week with four children ranging in age from seven to fifteen.
Colchester Castle is set within the grounds of Castle Park, where there is plenty of space to let off steam before actually entering the museum. There is a small section of ruined wall that any child will delight in walking along and entry to the museum is via a wooden bridge followed by automatic doors.
---The Museum Experience---
Before paying to enter the museum proper, there is a chance to drop some pennies into a well, the children all enjoyed this, and even learnt that the heavier the coin the faster it drops. There was also a mosaic to look at, but then it was time to pay. Now there are two separate prices to pay, one for entry to the museum proper and then a top-up if you want a guided tour. We decided NOT to go for the guided tour, so I cant actually tell you if that was worth the extra or not, but because we didnt take up this option we were unable to enter the temple vaults. However we, personally, did not miss this as there was still so much to do.
The actual museum was fascinating, there were plenty of exhibits, some could not be touched, and others could be touched or even worn. By following the route around, we learnt lots about Colchester (and indeed) Britain through the ages. There were two main themes to the exhibits, the first being Roman, were there were togas to try on (not as complicated to put on as they looked), Roman pottery to touch, the numerals to work out, rubbings to make and a fairly informative film (about Boudica) to watch. The highlight for my children in this section (and the whole museum) was how interactive it was. It didnt take them long to work out that if there was a green hand they could touch, and they took full advantage of this fact.
The other main exhibit focussed on the Normans and Saxons, and again there was plenty to keep the children involved as they dressed in the costumes (a word of warning, the chain mail is VERY heavy) and discovered other exhibits to interactive with. As well as having fun, the children learnt a great deal about our countries history.
The exhibit that was my personal favourite was in the prison, where very clever use of lighting, silhouettes and recorded voice gave a glimpse into what it may have been like for the prisoners held there. Now this particular show did scare a couple of my children, who believed that it was ghosts, and I must admit that I jumped a couple of times. But it was informative and atmospheric and I did learn something from it.
All in all the actual museum needs to be congratulated, it took us a good couple of hours to take everything in, and we all enjoyed being able to get involved.
Although the museum is set over two floors there are lifts as well as stairs, there is also plenty of room between exhibits to safely manoeuvre a wheelchair or large buggy. For those with sensory problems, there is perhaps not so much that they can touch as there could have been, but there is still something for everyone. There are easily accessible toilets that appeared to be in a clean condition, and there is also a meeting/eating area where you can sit and eat your packed lunch. Of course there is also a shop (located as you leave the museum) with gifts ranging from very reasonably priced small items that the children can buy with their pocket money (pencils badges, etc) to far more expensive gifts.
My children and I definitely enjoyed our visit to Colchester Castle, from before we even entered the museum until we finally left a couple of hours later. There was enough variety in the exhibits that there was something that each of us could get involved in. The younger children enjoyed dressing up; creating rubbing of Roman Numerals and giggling at the fact some statues had no clothes on. And the older ones enjoyed learning more about our history and working out the Roman numeral system. We all enjoyed hunting for those exhibits that werent instantly obvious, such as a stone mason working on top of a Norman arch and even the slightly squeamish exhibits (such as a funeral pyre) were appreciated.
In conclusion I would say the actual castle was well worth the money we paid to visit, that we will be returning for another visit later in the year and we may even take the guided tour. So in answer to the question thats on all of your lips, yes I am recommending that if you find yourself in Colchester with a few spare hours that you visit the Castle Museum and see how much fun you can have while youre learning.
Monday-Saturday 10am till 5pm
Sunday 11am till 5 pm
(last entry 4.30pm)
Adults - £4.90
Children Aged 5-15 - £3.10
Under 5 - Free
Retired and Concessions - £3.10
Saver Ticket (2 adults and 2 concessions or 1 and 3) - £13
Special prices apply for groups of 20 or more
Guided Tour (After entry to museum)
Adults - £1.90
*Prices Correct Until 31 March 2007
(There are occasional days when entry to actual museum is free)