Featured image of Colchester Castle

The History of Colchester Castle

LocationColchester, Essex, England (Google Map)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byBorough of Colchester
Rooms AvailableNo

Colchester Castle is one of the largest Norman castles in Europe and is one of the most important heritage sites in England. It was built between 1069 and 1076 under the order of William I, son of William the Conqueror. The Castle Museum contains the archaeological treasure of vessels, jewelry, paintings, weapons, and more things from different eras that you can explore. It is one and a half size of the famous White Tower at the Tower of London and has the most exciting history.


Colchester Castle was built in the 11th century, and the work was completed in 1100. It was built as the royal fortress of William I. In 1101, the castle was granted to Eudo by Henry I. He served William I, II, and Henry I as the Steward of Normandy for years. In 1120, the Eudo died, and the castle was reverted to the crown. After that, it was held by the crown’s constable or keeper of the crown.

In 1132, Henry I visited the castle. At that time, Hamon De St Clare was the constable. He was succeeded by Hubert, his son, who died 22 years later. At that time, there was no constable or keeper of the castle, and the crown decided to keep the castle under their control with the Sheriff.

Meanwhile, in 1161, about 24 pounds were spent on the repair work of the castle. Between 1167 and 1170, the king’s houses were rebuilt. And in 1172, the prison was added to the castle’s structure, which cost about 50 pounds. Between 1173 and 1174, Henry II’s son started supplying barracks to the knights and sergeants. He got paid for the same.

In 1199, King John rebelled against the crown and won the castle. But in 1200, he sold the castle to William De Lanvalei, who became the castle’s constable in 1196. After he died in 1215 October, French troops came and conquered the castle. In 1216, Normans won the castle back, but it had fallen into disrepair. After being untouched for centuries, the walls and upper parts of the keep got demolished by the 17th century. The remaining structure was used as a prison for more than a century. In 1922, it was purchased by Colchester Borough Council. It now works as the Colchester Museum and marks the Grade I listed building.


Colchester Castle
Colchester Castle by walker44 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Colchester Castle is located in Colchester, England, and is famous for the largest stonework in the world. It has a royal foundation with an original Gundulf of Rochester design. Its keep is the largest surviving example of Norman’s plans and has a ground plan similar to White Tower located at the Tower of London.

This castle has a stone and brick foundation. It was initially built in two stages- a one storey high keep was built near the outer walls in the first stage, and its walls were raised higher in the second stage. The traditional view of the castle was a three-storey building; however, there are many arguments about its actual height.

The surviving Norman features that you can still see in the castle are:

  • Entrance doorway, which is protected by fore-building and has a fine arch,
  • Grand Staircase in the south-west corner of the tower, 
  • Fireplace on the first floor with the Y-shaped chimneys built against the wall, and
  • Royal Apartments in the east gallery of the first floor.

Some surviving structures of the keep can still be seen in the north and east sections of the castle. You can see the chapel’s foundation, well, prison cells, and lower bailey on the north and east sides of the castle. 

Now, Colchester Castle is a museum open to the public. You can check out the archaeological treasures from different centuries during your visit to the museum. Also, using the interactive tablet, you can view how the castle was in medieval times. You can even choose the guided tour to explore the history, collection, parks, and architecture of Colchester Castle.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was Colchester Castle built?

Colchester Castle was built between 1069 and 1076 under the order of William the Conqueror on the foundations of the prior Roman Temple of Claudius. The overall building of the castle was completed in 1100. The construction work took more time than expected because it was ceased in 1080 because of the threat of an invasion by the Vikings.

Who lived in Colchester Castle?

The Colchester Castle was the royal fortress during the Middle Ages constructed under the order of William I, son of William the Conqueror. Later, the castle was granted to Eudo, who served as Steward of Normandy for William I, William II, and Henry I.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
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He is a versatile E-Learning Support Officer and former Academic Officer at the University of York, United Kingdom. Not just an expert in education and technology, Debayan also has a deep love for castles and mountains. With a passion for travel, having explored 168+ cities worldwide, and a keen eye for photography, He brings a unique blend of experiences to the table. Specializing in E-learning content, IT support, AR development, and software engineering, Debayan has made a significant impact, educating over 200,000 students on Udemy.

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