Colchester’s Keep is the biggest ever built in the United Kingdom and is the largest that remains in existence throughout Europe. At 152 x 112 feet it is one and a half times the size of the “White Tower” at the “Tower of London. Debates have continued through history as to the original height of the Keep. It has been theorised that at one time it had as many as four storeys, however due to factors such as the peaceful region of the Castle and the shortage in local stone it is widely believed that it in fact had only two or three.
The Castle now houses a wonderful museum containing a wealth of history. There is plenty for visitors young and old including interactive exhibits.
If you are after a bit of fun, try building the arch using the sponge bricks. This can be found on the upper level. Little tip, the bricks can be found in a storage box in the fireplace by the wall.
If you are feeling brave, pay a visit to the jail. Press the button and hear the past come to life!
William the Conqueror ordered the build of this castle somewhere between 1069 and 1076 and it believed to be the design of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. It has been constructed on the foundations of a prior Roman Temple of Claudius (somewhere between 54AD and 60AD), which with their immense vaults can now be viewed on a Castle Tour. The build is believed to have been completed in 1100 and took longer than expected as work had to cease in 1080 due to the threat of an invasion by the Vikings.
Since it ended its reign as a Royal Castle it has had various uses including a County Prison where in 1645 the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins imprisoned and questioned suspected witches. Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle (Royalist Leaders) were executed at the Castle in 1648 during the Second English Civil War and local legend has it that the spot where they lost their lives no longer allows grass to grow. This point is now marked by a small obelisk.
In 1922 Colchester Castle and the parks surrounding it were given to the town of Colchester and remain as we see them today, with the general public being able to enjoy the parks and the facilities they have to offer and the Castle is now a public museum.