Colchester in old picture postcards volume 1

Colchester in old picture postcards volume 1

:   George Pluckwell
:   Essex
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2531-4
:   112
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Colchester is situated in the County of Essex, 51 and % miles from London. It is also not far from the East Coast of England. A few years before the birth of Christ, Co1chester then known as Camulodunum - was governed by Prince Cunobelin, the warlike character who figures in Shakespeare's play 'Cyrnbeline', This ambitious Iron Age ruler made Colchester his headquarters; though the site of that ancient city probably covered more ground. Sorne 14 square miles. Camulodunum was a large and strong prornontory fortress. It occupied the crest of a broad ridge of ground lying between the Rivers Colne and Roman. It was thought to be the Capitalof Iron Age Britain for Cunobelin was classed by the Romans as the most powerful King in Britain. After a long and very successful reign he died in about the year A.D. 40. A few years later his stronghold capital was invaded by Claudlus, the great Roman Emperor, who entered the ancient fortress city of Camulodunum (Colchester) riding on an elephant, although how he got them across the English Channel I can not imagine. He founded the first British Colonia there to be given the names of Victricenses (in honour of the victory) and Claudiana (in honour of himself). Further to cover himselfwith glory, he decreed that a temple be erected to his deity, In A.D. 61 Boudicca, Queen of a Norfolk tribe, made her revo1t against the yoke of Rome. They had made slaves of the British tribes and brave Boudicca, sometimes described as an ancient British Battleaxe, was fighting for justice and freedom. She descended on Camulodunum and the new Colonia and burnt the grand Temple of Claudius to the ground. Later, after a big battle, that stouthearted Queen took poison rather than fall or surrender into enemy hands. She will ever stand for freedom in English history .

Thereafter Colchester was walled in and made safe from future revo1ts or attacks. It seemed to settle down contentedly under Roman rule for about four hundred years. With many public buildings, baths, outside farms and villas for officers and their families with under floor heating, Today indications of the extent to which Roman civilization pre-

dominated are to be found in the Cast1e Museum, just off the High Street in the fine pleasure area the Cast1e Park.

So the town, once capitol of Iron Age England, never regained its early importance in the Imperial Roman scheme and became merely a country provincial town.

There is a colourfullegend of King Cole, a rich character in Colchester's history. In 238 A.D. Cole, generalor governor of this district under Rome, seized the government of those parts now known as Essex and Hertfordshire. In the year 242 his famous daughter Helena was born in the town. Eighteen years later Constantius, the Roman general in Spain, came and besieged Co1chester. After the siege was raised he married Helena to whom he had given his heart. A son was bom of their happy union, who in due course became Constantine the Great. Helena, a doer of good works, later made a saint travelled to the Holy Land and discovered the Holy Sepulchre and the Cross. There is a statue of Saint Helena on top of Colchester's Victorian Town Hall in the High Street, holding a cross. It was discovered a few years ago that she is in fact not the reputed Saint Helena, but a likeness of the Virgin Mary.

In the ninth century the terrible Danes invaded Colchester with their custom of rape and pillage. Short1y afterwards Edward the Eider came with his West Saxon army and repaired the town walls and the people submitted to him, who before were under the dominion of the dreadful Danes. This opened up a new period in the history of Colchester, marked by its change of name to Colneceaster; the town by the River Colne.

The Norman Conquest in 1066 brought prosperity to Colchester. William's principal liege in Essex was Eudo, the dapifer or high steward. He built the castle on top of the Roman Vaults of Claudiuses ruined temple and founded the Abbey of Saint John. He personally owned five houses and forty acres and half the church of Saint Peter (half its endowments). Bad King John visited the Town on many occasions and after the signing of the Magna Charta attacked the Town in 1216. It led to a sorry state of affairs with the French that the barons had installed to withstand a siege, laving down

their arrns and soon were under escort to London. While wicked J ohn took the great Castle of Colchester.

They always seerned to have a conflict of somekind in Colchester rich history, For King Henry VIII (of six wives farne) suppressed the wealthy Monasteries in Tudor times and let his favourites plunder the Essex Religious Houses, including Saint John's Abbey in Colchester. During the terrible Civil War, when family fought against family, the Town endured a Great Siege and bravely held out for 76 days, sometirnes eating mice, rats, cats and even horses.

In 1648 sorne Royalists, named Lucas and Lisle, under George Goring Earl of Norwich marched their troops into the Town and declared it to be a Royalist stronghold for King Charles I. The population was mostly in sympathy with Parliament and the Roundheads, Crornwell's General Fairfax quickly surrounded the wa11ed fortress that was Colchester and starved them into surrender. Fairfax firstly offered them a free pardon if they surrendered, but the mighty Headgate was shut and barricaded leaving several hundred Parliamentarian troops inside. The Royalists killed them to a man and the siege eontinued. The Roundhead General also fined the poor townsfo1k L14,000 after the siege. lf they did not pay, he said, his soldiets would pillage and plunder the town. The damage to Colchester was great indeed, Hardly a church remains which does not show evidence of having been rebuilt in the early eighteenth century.

As regards trade Edward III had introduced Flemish weavers into Essex and in the fifteenth century a large number of Dutch refugees found their way to Colchester and developed an important industry in the Bay and Say Cloth trade. So important in fact that during the siege they feit emboldened to propose to General Fairfax that he should allow them to come and go between the town and their regular customers. To which he responed by informing them that gentlemen in his camp would pay fair prices for all the stuff they would bring to Lexden Heath (not far outside the town walls). They did not seem to haveaccepted his offer.

The Romans had a passion for oysters and Colchester fishery

is of great age. Richard I confirmed the then existing rights with regard to the fishery from the N orth Bridge as far as Westnesse. And aIthough the rights have been challenged, they still exist. They also have a Colchester Oyster Feast, held annua11y in October at the Town Hall or Castle. Merribers of Parliament, filmstars and other famous personalities, numbering sorne 400, eat and enjoy as many as 10,000 oysters.

In 1901 the total population was 38,373 and by 1963 it had risen to over 100,000. Same population explosion.

Colchester was one of the largest military eentres in the country in 1909 and is still a garrison area with many barracks, with nam es like Artillery. Same of the Victorian barracks were red brick buildings with stables downstairs for the horses. One imagined the soldiers and their wives lived upstairs in kind of old fashion flats with heavy wrought iron balconies. Conditions were very primitive in those far off Empire days. Just a wooden bed and table screwed to the floor in case of breakages. Candle or perhaps oil lamplight and squares of lino on the weil scrubbed floor. (How contrasting to the houses of modern day soldiers.)

Colchester is justly proud of its modern day engineering firms. Some old established like Woods Ltd., who make metal fans, and Paxmans Ltd. for engines and boilers. The modern Town is a thriving place and the old weavers cottages in the Stockweil Streets blend ÎIl with the skyscrapper buildings of the Teleeom Centre and Insurance office bleeks.

So the ancient Town of Colchester today is known for Oysters, Cants Roses, Engines and Colchester United Football Club and Players. Not overlooking the New University of Wivenhoe which Colchester has placed in the Borough. So Colchester still bears that proud title: the oldest recorded town in England and capitol of Iron Age Britain.

My grateful thanks to Mr. Peter Sherry for his great help with the old postcards. And to Mr. Val. Stone for assisting me with this project. To Miss Barbara CartIand, the Novelist, for her faith and encouragement in my writings. Also Colchester Public Library who kindly have given me information.


H >gh S eel 00 ng E s

1. This 1902 scene of Co1chester High Street is observed from the junction of North Hili and Head Street before the electric tram era. There is none of the hustle or bustie one now associates with the busy High Street. It even appears rather muddy from the horse-drawn traffic. The large colonnaded building on the left is the Suffolk and Essex Insurance Company offices. In the previous few decades it has been converted into various shops. Next to the Fire Office, as it was often called, are the Albert Hall and Art Gallery. This was once the old Corn Exchange. It has served many purposes including the Towns Repertory Theatre. Further down, still on the left, is the Victoria Clock Tower of the New Town Hall ju st completed. There was a Hansom Cab Rank outside the impressive Fire Office. This gives the picture truc Edwardian flavour.

.i(igh Street, Cokhester

1 :.::::

2. The same scene in 1910. Showing three types of transport and a busier High Street. On the left a proper country pony and trap while near right is a smart early type enclosed saloon motor car. A fine open top electric tram is outside the Fire Office. Trams, then the modern transport, arrived in Colchester in 1904 and lasted untill929. The High Street runs straight within the Town Walls in true Roman fashion.

j-tigh Streef, eo' hester

3. The High Street in 1903 before the period of the trams. One can behold Jumbo, the giant water tower in the background. It is a weIl known locallandrnark and visitors always spot it towering up into the skyline from our Colchester North Railway Station and know that they have arrived at the right town, That and the Victoria clock tower of the Town Hall are unrnistakable. There is some curious carriage or coach on the right hand side of this postcard. There once was a small church of Saxon origin, called Saint Runwald, that stood out nearly in the middle of the High Street not far from the Town Hall site. This little church, a fine specimen of the Perpendicular, lay desolate for many years and was unfortunately entirely cleared away in 1878.

1j!g;; Streef, Coleoester.

4. Another High Street view with gas lamps on either side of the picture. The (cream coloured) building on the right with the colourful flower boxes outside is the ancient George Hotel. This former coaching inn goes back to Georgian times and is full of old oak beams and in the cellars there are sections of the historica! Roman Town Walls. In days long gone many a hunting party after the sly fox would leave their horses outside and enjoy refreshment at the George. lt is still open for trade and customers in this year of grace 1984 and long may it reign (1903).

5. The Renaissance style High Street Town Hall was completed in 1902 at the cast of t62,000. It was designed by Mr. John Belcher and the foundation-sta ne was laid by the Duke of Cam bridge in 1896. This splendid structure was built on the site of the previous Victorian Town Hall, pulled down in 1894 because it was not grand enough. Originally the same site had held the ancient Norman Moot Hall. On the exterior walls are niches containing statues of six famous people prominently associated with the Tewn's history. Including Samuel Harsnett, Archbishop of York, once son of a Colchester baker, who died in 1544 and bequeathed a valuable collection of books to the Town. The principal apartment is called Moot Hall or Assem bly room with a good organ. On top of the Victoria Clock Tower can be seen the supposed figure of Saint Helena and Cross, 160 feet high. Only in truth it is a likeness of the Virgin Mary (the only statue available). Part of the Cup's Hotel can be viewed on the left (1905).



6. North Hill and High Street junction, looking down the Hill from the Head Street direction. On the left is the Waggon and Horses Public House complete with swinging barrel signs and centre lamp. Next to a narrow lane, known as Balkerne Passage which leads to the Roman Balkerne Gateway, is William Simkin, Furnishers and Valuers, While on the right can [ust be seen the shop premises of A. Halls, Fishmonger, Oyster Catcher and Poultry seller. Behind his shop is the lofty tower of Saint Peter's Church (1920).

7. North Hili before the trams in 1900 was quite a tranquil place and one can see the High Woods in the background down North Hili. One can behold The Waggon and Horses on the left and William Simkirr's advertising board jutting out. He was a jack of all trades being also a cabinet and chair maker, upholsterer and even undertaker! While on the right hand side is a good view of Saint Peter 's seventeenth century restored Church Tower. It has iliuminated dial clock faces, dating from 1866, which ju t out over North Hili. Saint Peter's is still open for services.

8. This delightful Edwardian picture of 1907 depiets the top of North Hill where it merges or joins High Street and Head Street, The girl in the foreground is probably a grandmother by now, And note the la dies passing the time of day in the shade of Saint Peter's seventeenth century lofty brick church tower. Colchester was originally built on a hill or area of raised ground completely surrounded by Roman and later Norman Town Walls. Further down the steep mountain like North Hill the old cattle market of Middleborough was situated. In recent years the cattle market has completely vanished under the hands of the redevelopers and town planners. North Hill still has much character, a blend of Tudor and Georgian houses with quaint cobbled tiled roofs.

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