Monument record MCC8392 - Colchester - Town Walls


Town walls of Roman Colchester - see separate entries for gates, towers, etc.


Grid reference Centred TL 99 25 (1000m by 0m) (Centred on)
Map sheet TL92NE


Type and Period (6)

Full Description

Town walls of Roman Colchester - see separate entries for gates, towers, etc. The town walls are essentially Roman with Medieval addition and rebuilding. They are built of layers of septaria interlaced regularly with four-fold courses of bricks with a core of rubble and mortar. The lowest course of bricks extends right through the wall, average width 8ft. It is strengthened by a series of internal rectangular towers, each 17.6ft long projecting 6ft. The wall is dated 120-150AD and the rampart 150-175AD. The amount of surviving Roman work is probably small. <1> <2> <3> The walls are c.3100 yards in length, enclosing an area of c.108 acres and forming a rectangle c.1000 yards E-W and 510 yards N-S with rounded angles. The course of the wall can be traced throughout except for some distance in the SW corner which seems to have suffered special damage in the siege of 1648. Towards the E end of the N wall and less clearly near the Balkerne Gate are remains of an internal earthern rampart c.20ft in width. At present the only indications of a ditch outside the walls are at the NE and SW angles - at the NE angle the profile suggests a Medieval origin. <2> Wall with 6 gates and internal towers built c.125 AD. <4> The ditch to the town probably only exists at the NE corner. It is here very marked and must have been of great width. Presumably this is the Medieval ditch though it may originally have dated from the Roman defences. Considered to be the outer defences of the Roman town though it is only at this point that they survive. Not dated but presumed to be later than the early C2 defences. <4> The Roman wall of Colchester is, so far as has been observed, of one uniform build, variations being in points of detail. Materials are tiles made locally and septaria stone, squared into rectagular blocks of varying length. The core between faces is of concrete of yellowish mortar and roughly coursed, irregular pieces of septaria. Generally 8'8" face to face, the foundation 10-11ft wide and generally 2-3ft deep made of several courses of large blocks os septaria laid in mortar in an ample trench filled up with clay. The base of the wall is 9.5ft wide, of one course of septari capped with tile. Above the offset the wall comprises three courses of septaria then alternately 4 courses each of tile and septaria. There are few finds from the wall itself. See 13117 for section cut through the wall rampart and tower on Balkerne Hill, 13118 for section through wall and rampart on Balkerne Hill. In Colchester Museum is an original drawing by Major M Bale of a section of the Roman town wall at the end of St Peter's Street, near the Rye Gate, 24 Feb 1908 prepared for Dr H Laver. <6> Section in source 1 (Hull's section IV) through the wall just E of the NE gateway just E of the NE corner of Hollytrees Meadow when a drain was taken through beneath the town wall. The work was observed by Duncan and also by Wire whose account contradicts Duncan in some respects and which ties in with information obtained at the NE gate. Wire's account is therefore assumed to be the more accurate by Hull. <5> See 13119 for tower at the N end of Castle Park; 13120 for the tower in the NE corner of the town walls; 13121 for a section through the rampart and wall; 13122 for the tower between 13121 and East Gate; 12246 for a section through the rampart and wall in the grounds of East Hill House..

Site Assessment = "The general consition of the wall in 1950 was good but the amount of original Roman work was probably very small. The repairs and rebuilding of later periods made use of original materials and it is impossible to differentiate. The stretch between the East Gate and South Gate has modern facing completely obscuring any earlier work". <3> The ditch at the NE corner now flattened by modern earth-moving associated with the nearby housing estate. The bank can just be seen and the ditch is often visible because of differential growth of grass and weeds. <4> Collapse of part of the walls on Balkerne Hill in the C19. <5>

An inspection and management reccomendations were made in 2004 <8>.

Sources/Archives (9)

  • --- DESC TEXT: Brooks, H. 2005. A desk-based assessment of the archaeological remains around the Central Clinic, East Lodge Court, High Street, Colchester. June 2005.
  • <1> DESC TEXT: Priddy, DA. unknown. SMR.
  • <2> DESC TEXT: RCHME. 1922. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex - Volume 3. Vol 3, pp.19-20.
  • <3> RECORD SHEET/FORM: Ordnance Survey. unknown. OS cards. TL92NE04, 1950.
  • <4> Scheduling record: Department of the Environment. 1986. Colchester Town Wall - EX7. parts 5-8.
  • <5> DESC TEXT: Hull, MR. 1958. Roman Colchester. p22.
  • <6> Graphic material: Bale, Major J. unknown. ILLUSTRATION Col Mus.
  • <7> DESC TEXT: Gascoyne, Adrian. 2004. Roman Town Wall Nos. 15,21 and 23 Roman Road, Colchester.
  • <8> DESC TEXT: Gascoyne, Adrian. 2004. Inspection report and management recommendations for the Roman town wall at 14 Roman Road, Colchetser.

Finds (1)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (8)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Nov 3 2015 11:41AM

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