The Red Lion Hotel is one of the earliest surviving and best-preserved buildings in Colchester town centre. The Red Lion was built originally as a town house for John Howard, Lord Howard, later the duke of Norfolk in 1481 or 1482 and the heraldic badge of the Howards is carved on the façade, over the gateway.
Seventeen samples were taken for tree-ring dating in 2016, from different sections of the building. These indicate, perhaps surprisingly, that different sections were built within a very short timescale. Two posts from the front range provided a date of AD 1475/76 or soon after. A post from the southern hall, in the rear of the west range, was dated to AD 1475 and matched the date of a post at the rear of the east range.
By 1515 it had become a public hostelry, originally the New Inn or The White Lion, but is possible that some of the building complex could have remained in Howard occupation. After 1603, it became known as the Red Lion in honour of James VI of Scotland and I of England, whose Scottish royal arms featured a red lion.
The archway is decorated with St George and the Dragon and two male figures which possibly represent merchants or lawyers. As in previous centuries, today the lower part of the building is used for retail, with the hotel on the upper floors.