Colchester was a relatively affluent post-medieval town, with its importance being derived from its pivotal role in the regional cloth-making industry and its thriving port. The town's economy grew significantly from the 1560s with a new wave of skilled Dutch immigrants being accommodated in the town. In 1571 several Dutch immigrants formed a guild in the town which was granted exclusive rights to produce lightweight cloths, which would underpin Colchester's commercial success throughout the following century. By the end of the 16th century Colchester was at the centre of a regional cloth-making revival which extended as far as Bocking, Braintree, Coggeshall, Dedham and Halstead. Colchester dominated the regional cloth-making industry, with manufacturers in smaller towns being required to bring their products to Colchester to have them sealed for quality at the Dutch Bay Hall.
In 1648 Colchester was besieged during the Civil War. Royalist troops on their way to garner support for the king in Suffolk and Norfolk were attacked by a Parliamentarian force, and took refuge within the town walls. The siege lasted for 11 weeks, with many lives being lost and many of the town's important buildings being destroyed or damaged in the conflict.