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A second day in Colchester

My study day finished at 16:30, which was too late to head back all the way to Malvern that evening, especially as I was travelling by train. So I had planned to stay overnight in Colchester, and make my escape straight after breakfast the next morning. However, I found the study day so interesting, with so much to see particularly at the museum housed in Colchester Castle, that I decided to have another look at it the next morning at my own pace. The museum didn’t open until 10:00am, so I walked around the town at first, trying to put the bits and pieces I’d seen the previous day into context. When you’re walking around as part of a group, rather than navigating yourself, it’s more difficult to see how it all fits together.

The Balkerne Gate

The Balkerne Gate

Above is a photo of a Roman gate in the town walls, just a five minute walk from my hotel. Unfortunately, I was standing with my back to a planning monstrosity – a dual carriageway ring-road that cut the town in two. Our archaeologist guide was in despair about the planning blight that was inflicted on Colchester, though to be fair it’s by no means the only place that suffered. Worcester was also a victim of “progress”, probably at much the same time.

The Colchester Vase

The Colchester Vase

At ten o’clock on the dot I was at the entrance of the castle, looking to spend a couple of hours exploring the museum. It’s got one of the best collections of Romano-British artefacts in the country, and has only recently reopened after major refurbishment, having been the recipient of a major Lottery Fund grant to improve its displays and make it a more “interactive experience”, particularly for children. It seems to have worked – it was right at the end of school term, and there were several school parties having a whale of a time.

The previous day, our party was taken around the museum and shown the top ten or so most important treasures, including the “Colchester Vase” which has scenes of gladiators and hunting dogs. The top ten treasures were indeed very impressive, but I kept seeing stuff out of the corner of my eye that I wanted to have a proper look at – some Roman intaglios (carved gemstones from rings), some beautiful and delicate glassware, and a chariot-racing simulation. This last looked particularly fun – you took the place of one of the charioteers in a CGI simulation, and used reins to steer your four-horse team around several laps of the Colchester stadium, racing against computer-generated opposition. The kids were absolutely loving it, and several of us said over lunch on Monday that we’d been itching to throw them off and have a go ourselves!

On Tuesday I got my chance to have a proper look at all the things that had caught my eye on Monday, and I also managed to sneak a go on the chariot racing game. It was fun – I did better than the three-year old who had a turn before me! I managed a most impressive overtaking manoeuvre down the final straight and finished in second place!

I managed to “do” the museum thoroughly before lunch, and then caught an early afternoon train back to London, and thence onwards to Malvern. I’d spent longer in Colchester than I had expected to, but it was definitely worth a visit.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Kevin | 30 July 2014 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    Are those clay bricks in the archway original or part of a restoration?

  2. Gillian | 30 July 2014 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    The clay tiles are original. The arch has probably been “consolidated” to improve the strength of the mortar (don’t want it falling on the heads of the public!) But the tiles and stonework are 1st Century AD, dating to immediately after the Boudiccan Revolt of AD60.