Monument record MCC412 - Holy Trinity Church, Colchester


Anglo-Saxon and later church.


Grid reference Centred TL 99625 25116 (30m by 19m)
Map sheet TL92NE


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

Church of The Holy Trinity, converted to a Museum in 1974, currently an arts centre and cafe.

In its present form the church comprises a nave, chancel, south aisle and south chapel, all of C14 and C15 date, plus the earlier, 11th century, west tower. The north aisle and chapel were added in 1886.<4><6>

The west wall of the nave and south-east corner has the oldest fabric, but of uncertain date (although it is clearly Anglo-Saxon - possibly a modest single-celled structure). To this was added the west tower that has been architecturally dated to around AD 1000. The tower is late Anglo-Saxon, built of flint rubble and septaria, with reused Roman brick and tile in place of stone dressings. The tower is of three stages and has a triangular-headed west doorway built from reused Roman brick, round-headed windows, traces of a round-headed wall arcade and a tower arch also built of reused brick. C14 and C19 work has removed or hidden all other fabric.<1><2>

RCHME has photos of tower and west doorway. Original windows of the tower survive and traces of a wall arcade marked by small brick fragments but most of this has probably fallen out. The Chancel was rebuilt about the middle of the C14 later in the same century the nave S. arcade was built and a S. aisle added. Reused material indicates former existence of a late C14 S. chapel. Late in the C15 S. chapel arcade were built or rebuilt; the S. aisle refaced or rebuilt with the S. porch, both incorporating C14 work. Features and fittings include: C14 and C15 windows and window detail; C15 or C16 squint in chancel; C15 (blocked) S. chapel doorway; C14 S. doorway, probably reset; probably C16 chest in vestry; C14 or early C15 door in S. doorway; probably C16 W. doorway; early C15 font; C15 glass in S. chapel; indent in S. aisle; late C14 altar tomb and recess in S. aisle; late C14 piscina in S. chapel, S. wall; plate- C15 mazer or alms-dish- maplewood bowl with silver gilt rim, inscribed; seating detail in chancel- C15; C15 stoup in S. porch. Post Medieval restoration when E. vestry, N. chapel and N. aisle were added.<3>

Although the west wall of nave has been considered to be the oldest part of the fabric, it is possible that the plan of the nave and west half of the chancel should be associated with this early wall. The church would have been quite a modest building with square-ended or stilted apsidal chancel. Date of this build is unknown. The tower was added later to this. A trench excavated in 1971? (possibly 1973) when the building was converted to a museum showed that the former east wall of the Anglo-Saxon church was a little to the west of the present line of the nave easr wall. The church had not been built directly on the Roman Road which was overlaid by a thick layer of black earth containing sub-Roman and Anglo-Saxon pottery. No positive dating for the church was found.<4>

Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Street, survey by Bettley & Pevsner 2007 (first published in 1954) record, ' The W. tower is the only Anglo-Saxon (pre-Conquest) monument of Colchester. Built with plenty of Roman bricks, and crowned by a low pyramid roof. The oldest part is the E. wall and arch into the nave, with odd capitals of the responds in three steps of brick, without any mouldings. The tower itself is slightly later, it small W. doorway with triangular head a wholly Saxon feature. Saxon upper windows, the bell-openings developed as twin windows but not separated by a turned shaft or colonnette as usual. On the sides below that stage traces of a blank arcade. Nave rebuilt in the C14 and the chancel built or rebuilt; s. arcade and aisle and s. porch added in late C15, the C. chapel later in the same century. Vestry added at E. end of chancel and s. side, 1840, church reseated and repaired c.1854, N. aisle and N. chapel by G.E. Laing.'.<5>

Monument to William Gilberd, d.1603. Marble and alabaster tablet with thirteen shields of arms and pilasters supporting a cornice on which stand two obelisks either side of an achievement.<5>

Four digital photographs of Holy Trinity Church, Colchester, taken in August 2016.<7>

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <1> Index: Essex County Council. 1972. Colchester SMR (computer). No 12249.
  • <2> Index: Ordnance Survey. 1876. Ordnance Survey Cards. TL92NE3.3.
  • <3> Monograph: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1922. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England): Essex, (North-East). Volume III. No 3.
  • <4> Monograph: Rodwell, Warwick J with Rodwell, KA. 1977. Historic Churches: a wasting asset. pp.31-32.
  • <5> Serial: Pevsner, Nikolaus. The Buildings of England: Essex. p.122.
  • <6> Monograph: Gascoyne, Adrian and Radford, David. 2013. Colchester. Fortress of the War God. An Archaeological Assessment. pp.197-198.
  • <7> Photograph: Tipper, J.. 2016. Photographs of Holy Trinity Church, Colchester. Digital.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (6)

Record last edited

Jul 27 2017 3:02PM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.