King Richard I gave Colchester its first royal charter in
1189 and in 1989 the 800th anniversary of the charter was celebrated by the
borough. Colchester has many famed medieval ruins, including the surviving
gateway of the Benedictine abbey of St. John the Baptist and the ruins of the
Augustinian priory of St. Botolph.
Colchester developed rapidly during the later fourteenth
century as a centre of the woollen cloth industry and became famous in many
parts of Europe for its russets which are fabrics of a grey-brown colour.
The town claims to have the UK's oldest catalogued market
and Colchester is an associate of the Most Ancient European Towns Network. Colchester
is noted for its Victorian architecture and significant landmarks include the
Jumbo Water Tower and the Colchester Town Hall.
Since 2006 Colchester is one of 12 places in the UK where
Royal salutes are fired to commemorate anniversaries and visits by foreign
heads of state. From 2009, these salutes have taken place in Castle Park. The
town is one of twenty-five across the UK which unsuccessfully applied for city
status to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012.
The Castle Museum in Colchester Castle, features a vast
display on Roman Colchester. Other museums include the Hollytrees Museum,
Natural History Museum and Tymperley's Clock Museum housing the Bernard Mason
On the cultural front one of the region's main repertory
theatres, the Mercury Theatre, opened in 1972. Colchester Arts Centre is a
multi-function arts venue occupied in the former St Mary-at-the-Walls church
and home of the Colchester Beer Festival. Headgate Theatre is also in
Colchester. The Minories, by the castle, accommodates a modern art company
called Firstsite and the Visual Arts Facility, designed by Rafael Vinoly,
opened in September 2011.
Other than the Arts Centre live music venues in Colchester
include The Twist, Charter Hall and The Fat Cat pub. In 2009, an art collective
called 'Slack Space' took up some of the closed-down shops in the town and
converted them into art galleries with the unrealised hope of promoting art and
design in the town.
The Colchester School of Art and Design is situated in the
Colchester Institute next to the central part of town, giving prominence to Art
in the town which also boasts a zoo on its outskirts.
Colchester is reputed to be the place of origin of three of
the best known English nursery rhymes: 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star', 'Humpty
Dumpty' and 'Old King Cole' although the legitimacy of the allegations for the first
two of these is disputed.
Suggestion is made that because of its ancient name
Camulodunum and its once being the capital of Roman Britain, Colchester was a
possible area of Camelot.
People born or who have lived in Colchester include: Sir
George Biddell Airy, Darren Day and Margaret Thatcher.