Colchester Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameColchester Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryEssex
Modern AuthorityEssex
1974 AuthorityEssex
Civil ParishColchester

Construction of Colchester Castle started in the reign of William Conqueror, perhaps as early as 1070-1, under the direction of the king's steward, Eudo Dapifer. The castle was later held by him until his death in 1120 when it reverted to the king. Colchester castle originally consisted of a large defended enclosure in the north-east quadrant of the Norman town and it had a great keep, or fortified palace, in the centre. The keep measures 46.2m x 33.5m (151ft 6 inches x 110ft) making it even larger in area than the White Tower in London which was a very similar structure. Battlements preserved in the wall show that work on the keep at Colchester ceased temporarily, perhaps in 1075, when there was a rebellion in East Anglia supported by a Danish fleet. This may have required preparation of the keep for a siege after only the ground floor had been completed. In any event, the building was completed by 1101, although exactly when is uncertain. The keep rests on the foundations and podium of a great Roman temple. Practically all of the masonry in the keep itself is re-used Roman material, apart from the newly-carved stone for the quoins, window reveals and facing, much of which has now been removed. At the base of the keep a substantial plinth splays out like a skirt. Above this the building has a ground floor and first floor, although an additional floor was originally planned. Internally the space was divided, first of all, by two major north-south walls, one of which was arcaded and is now missing. In addition, in the south-east corner, on the second floor, there was to have been a chapel with a projecting apse which is reproduced in the plan of the crypt and sub-crypt on the floors below, although the chapel itself may not have been built. The main entrance to the keep on the south side is, unusually, at ground level rather than on the first floor, although it was protected by an additional defensive structure

West of the entrance is a tower containing a spiral staircase. There are substantial clasping buttresses in the north-east and north-west corners and in the latter there is a second spiral staircase which rises from first floor level. At this level the Great Hall occupied the western side of the building. A second entrance, reached by an outside stair existed at the north end of the Hall. Large fireplaces, two in the west wall and two in the east, are amongst the earliest in medieval England. The keep was reduced to its present height in the late C17. Other buildings, including a hall and a chapel, are known in the castle bailey. (Les Normands)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL998253
Latitude51.8905906677246
Longitude0.903079986572266
Eastings599800
Northings225300
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Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Dixon, Philip, 2015, 'Steps to Lordship' in T.A. Heslop and Helen E. Lunnon (eds), Norwich Medieval and Early Modern Art, Architecture and Archaeology (The British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions 38) p. 118-134
  • Osbourne, Mike, 2013, Defending Essex (Stroud: The History Press) p. 24-26 (with many errors)
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 77-81
  • Neville, David, 2003, Lost Castles of Essex (Ian Henry) p. 69-81
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 24-6
  • Fernie, E., 2000, 'Castles, Halls, and Chamber Blocks' in The Architecture of Norman England (Oxford University Press) p. 49-88 esp 61-7
  • Crummy, P., 1997, City of Victory (Colchester) p. 144-9
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 70-2 (plan)
  • Cooper, Janet (ed), 1994, VCH Essex Vol. 9 p. 241-48 online transcription
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 93-5
  • Drage, C., 1987, 'Urban castles' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 117-32 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 143-4
  • Crummy. P., 1981, 'Notes on Colchester Keep' in Aspects of Anglo-Saxon and Norman Colchester (CBA Research Report 39) Appendix 4 online copy
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 211-12
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 151-7
  • Pevsner, N., 1965, Buildings of England: Essex (London, Penguin, 2edn. revised by E. Radcliffe) p. 138 - 9
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 615-6
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (London) p. 70-2
  • Benham and Co,, 1946, Colchester (Colchester) p. 56-71
  • Toy, Sidney, 1939, Castles: A short History of Fortifications from 1600 BC to AD 1600 (London) p. 71-2
  • Lloyd, Nathaniel, 1925, History of English Brickwork (London: H Greville Montgomery) p. 1, 60, 101 (Reissued 1983 by Antique Collectors Club, reprinted 2003)
  • RCHME, 1922, An inventory of the historical monuments in Essex Vol. 3 (north-east) p. 50-4 no. 18 online transcription
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 132-4 online copy
  • Evans, Herbert A., 1912, Castles of England and Wales (London) p. 119-29
  • Hamilton Thompson, A., 1912, Military Architecture in England during the Middle Ages (London) p. 124-5 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1897, Castles of England Vol. 1 p. 256-60 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 418-31 online copy
  • Round, J.H., 1882, History and Antiquities of Colchester Castle (Colchester: Benham and Co) online copy
  • Buckler, G., 1876, Colchester Castle a Roman Building (Colchester) (King writes 'well illustrated and not useless, despite its preposterous thesis')
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 211-6 online copy
  • Jenkins, H., 1853, Colchester Castle (London and Colchester)
  • Britton, John, 1835, The Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain (London) Vol. 1 p. 109-14
  • Cromwell, 1825, History and Description of Colchester (London) esp p. 205-11
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 2 p. 113-18 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 91
  • Strutt, Joseph, 1774, Horda Angel-cynnan (London) Vol. 1 plates ii, iii
  • Morant, P., 1748, History and Antiquities of County of Essex (London) Vol. 1 p. 7-10

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Neil Guy, 2015-16, 'The Portcullis - design and development' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 29 p. 132-201
  • Guy, Neil, 2015 Sept, 'Daniel King, Cornelius Bol and Colchester’s Great Keep' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 20 p. 3-6
  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • 2012, 'Colchester Castle Redevelopment' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 14 p. 17 (news report)
  • Marshall, Pamela, 2012, 'Some thoughts on the phenomenon of multiple doorways and large openings in Romanesque donjons' Château Gaillard Vol. 25 p. 233-242
  • Guy, Neil, et al, 2011-12, 'CSG Annual Conference April 2011' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 25 p. 7-18
  • Marshall, Pamela, 2009-10, 'The internal arrangement of the donjon at Colchester in Essex: a reconsideration' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 23 p. 178-90 online copy
  • Mesqui, Jean, Renn, Derek and Smals Laurens, 2008, ''The Portcullis in Medieval Great Towers: An Impression' Château Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 289-95
  • Crummy, Philip, 2002, 'New light on Colchester Castle' The Colchester Archaeologist Vol. 15 p. 8 (news report) online copy
  • (Crummy, Philip), 2001, 'Colchester Castle measured up' The Colchester Archaeologist Vol. 14 p. 21-22 online copy
  • (Crummy, Philip), 1993-4, 'The castle that Eudo built' The Colchester Archaeologist Vol. 7 p. 1-7 online copy
  • Thompson, M.W., 1992 Nov, 'A suggested dual origin for keeps'' Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 15 p. 3-15
  • Crummy, Philip, 1988-9, 'the chapel on the roof' The Colchester Archaeologist Vol. 2 p. 1-3 online copy
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 308
  • < >Drury, P.J., 1982, 'Aspects of the origins and development of Colchester Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 139 p. 302-419 (full bibliography) < >
  • Bacon, Stuart R., 1973, 'Colchester Castle Well, an unusual excavation' Essex Archaeology and History Vol. 5 p. 237-9 online copy
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Cotton, M.A., 1962, 'The Norman Bank of Colchester Castle' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 42 p. 57-61
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
  • 1950, Antiquaries Journal Vol. 30 p. 70
  • Rickwood, 1938, Essex Review Vol. 47 p. 1-7 (later history)
  • Jarmin, 1922, Journal British Archaeological Association Vol. 37 p. 198-208
  • St John Hope, W.H., 1907, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 64 p. 188-91 online copy
  • 1899, The Essex Review Vol. 8
  • Nichols, 1889, Essex Archaeological Society Transactions Vol. 5 p. 1-35
  • Round, J.H., 1889, Essex Archaeological Society Transactions Vol. 5 p. 143-54 (records)
  • Anon, 1883, The Antiquary Vol. 7 p. 45-9, 157-62 (commentary on Clark's paper)
  • Clark, G.T.,1882, 'Some account of the keep of Colchester Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 39 p. 239-56 (reprint in MMA) online copy
  • King, 1777, 'Observations on antient castles' Archaeologia Vol. 4 p. 364-413 esp 406-9 (reprint in Antient Castles) online copy

Guide Books

  • Clarke, D.T-D., 1989 (7edn), Colchester Castle: a history, description and guide (Colchester: Colchester Borough Council)
  • Clarke, D.T-D., 1985 (6edn), Colchester Castle: a history, description and guide (Colchester: Colchester Borough Council)
  • Clarke, D.T-D., 1980 (5edn), Colchesrer Castle (Colchester: Colchester Borough Council)
  • Clarke, D.T-D., 1948, Colchester Castle (Colchester)

Primary Sources

  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p.179-
  • Pipe Rolls 1173-4, 1182-3, 1214-15 (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1880, The Minor Works comprising the Gesta regum with its continuation, the Actus pontificum, and the Mappa mundi, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls series 73) Vol. 2 p. 425 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 190-2
  • C145/126(2) (Survey of 1334) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 2 p. 346 No. 1418 [online copy > https://archive.org/stream/calendarofinqu02grea#page/346/mode/1up])
  • E178/5293 (Survey of 12 Charles I) The National Archives reference
  • E317 Essex/10 (Survey of Commonwealth) The National Archives reference
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference

Other

  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS
  • Barass, Lisa and Saunders, David, 2010-11, Colchester Castle (PADS Project) download copy
  • Pooley, Laura, 2006, An archaeological watching brief at Colchester Castle, Colchester, Essex (Colchester Borough Council) online copy