A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9, the Borough of Colchester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1994.

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A P Baggs. Beryl Board. Philip Crummy. Claude Dove. Shirley Durgan. N R Goose. R B Pugh. Pamela Studd. C C Thornton, 'Castle', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9, the Borough of Colchester, (London, 1994) pp. 241-248. British History Online [accessed 24 May 2024].

A P Baggs. Beryl Board. Philip Crummy. Claude Dove. Shirley Durgan. N R Goose. R B Pugh. Pamela Studd. C C Thornton. "Castle", in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9, the Borough of Colchester, (London, 1994) 241-248. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Board, Beryl. Crummy, Philip. Dove, Claude. Durgan, Shirley. Goose, N R. Pugh, R B. Studd, Pamela. Thornton, C C. "Castle", A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9, the Borough of Colchester, (London, 1994). 241-248. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024,


Colchester castle was built for William I, probably by Eudes the sewer c. 1076, using for the foundation of the keep the podium of the Roman temple of Claudius. (fn. 1) The surviving building, 46.3 m. × 33.5 m., is the largest Norman keep in England, larger than the White Tower of London which was built on a similar plan. The ground plan of Colchester keep, including the apse in the south-east corner, may be based on that of the late Roman building, (fn. 2) but the evidence is conflicting. The keep was built of rubble, including much septaria, stone, and tile taken from Roman buildings, with dressings of ashlar and tile.

The Crown kept possession of the castle until 1101 when Henry I granted it, with the town, to Eudes the sewer. (fn. 3) It escheated to the Crown on Eudes's death in 1120, and remained in the king's hands, although held intermittently by hereditary constables between c. 1120 and 1214, until it was granted in tail male to Humphrey of Lancaster, later duke of Gloucester, in 1404. (fn. 4) In 1436 it was regranted to Humphrey and his wife Eleanor in tail, but on Humphrey's death without issue in 1447 Eleanor was refused dower, and the castle reverted to the Crown. (fn. 5) In 1616 it was fraudulently included in a grant of concealed lands made to Samuel Jones and John Jones, and in the same year their interest was acquired by the life constable John Stanhope, Lord Stanhope. Although Jones and Jones were found guilty of fraud and imprisoned in 1620, Lord Stanhope's son Charles continued to claim the reversion of the castle under the grant of 1616. (fn. 6)

In 1629 Charles I granted the reversion of the castle, which was still in the possession of Charles, Lord Stanhope (d. 1675), to James Hay, earl of Carlisle. (fn. 7) The earl mortgaged his interest to Archibald Hay in 1633 and conveyed it to him outright in 1636. Archibald Hay, having failed to obtain possession from Lord Stanhope, (fn. 8) sold the reversion of the castle in 1649 to the parliamentarian Sir John Lenthall. Lenthall sold it in 1656 to Sir James Norfolk, who bought out Lord Stanhope's interest in 1662. Norfolk retained possession of the castle until his death in 1680, and his son Robert in 1683 sold the keep, but not the bailey, to a Colchester ironmonger, John Wheeley, for its stone. Wheeley, whose speculations had already driven him into debt, demolished part of the keep in the later 1690s, but the operation proved unprofitable and in 1705 he sold the keep to Sir Isaac Rebow. (fn. 9)

In 1726 Sir Isaac devised it to his grandson Charles Chamberlain Rebow who sold it the following year to Mary Webster who gave it to her daughter Sarah Creffield (d. 1751) and Sarah's second husband Charles Gray. In 1727 Mary Webster bought the bailey, presumably also for the Grays. She confirmed the grant to Gray by her will, proved in 1754. (fn. 10) On Gray's death in 1782 the castle passed to Sarah's granddaughter Thamar Creffield and her husband James Round of Birch. (fn. 11) It remained in the Round family until 1920 when Captain E. J. Round sold it to the borough as a war memorial; money for the purchase was given by W. D. Pearson, viscount Cowdray, high steward of the borough. (fn. 12)

Eudes the sewer was probably constable of the castle throughout the reigns of William I and William II, overseeing the completion of the keep and the construction of the bailey and putting the partly built castle into a state of defence to withstand the threatened invasion of Cnut of Denmark in 1085. (fn. 13) After his death his former under tenant Hamon of St. Clare became constable; in 1130 he accounted for the farm and aids of the borough and of Eudes's lands in Essex. (fn. 14) He seems to have held the castle throughout the civil war of Stephen's reign despite the Empress Maud's grant of it to Aubrey de Vere in 1141. (fn. 15) Hamon died c. 1150 and was succeeded by his son Hubert of St. Clare who was constable at his death in 1155. (fn. 16) From 1155 to 1190 the castle was probably in the sheriff's hands, except for the period 1173-4, during the rebellion of the young king, when Ralph Brito seems to have been constable. The castle was strengthened, garrisoned, and victualled in those years but was not attacked. (fn. 17)

The castle was provisioned again in 1190, the equipment including 26 military tunics presumably for a garrison. (fn. 18) The following year John son of Godfrey became constable and was granted an allowance of £12 a year from the farm of Tendring hundred to maintain his position. (fn. 19) He was succeeded in 1196 by William de Lanvalai, Hubert of St. Clare's grandson, who in 1200 bought from King John the right to continue to enjoy the custody of the castle. (fn. 20) He died in 1204 and was succeeded first by his widow Hawise and then by his son, another William de Lanvalai. (fn. 21)

Early in November 1214 King John stayed in Colchester, presumably at the castle, for two days; (fn. 22) he seems to have replaced de Lanvalai, a baronial partisan, by the sheriff, Matthew Mantell, who was almost at once ordered to hand the castle over to Stephen Harengood, probably a German or Flemish adherent of the king. (fn. 23) Mantell and Harengood carried out extensive works on the castle, and equipped and garrisoned it. (fn. 24) In July 1215, after the signing of Magna Carta, Harengood was ordered to restore the castle to de Lanvalai. (fn. 25) Colchester was thus one of the few castles not in the keeping of a royal supporter. By October 1215 de Lanvalai was in rebellion, or possibly dead, and later that year or early in 1216 the garrison was reinforced by a French contingent. (fn. 26) The castle held out against a siege by Savory de Meuleon in January 1216, but surrendered to King John in March. Harengood was reappointed constable and also made sheriff. (fn. 27) Early in 1217, however, the castle was surrendered to the French and their English associates in return for a truce. (fn. 28) It was restored to the Crown by the Treaty of Lambeth in 1218, provisioned again at a cost of £20, and committed to William of Sainte-Mère-Eglise, bishop of London. (fn. 29)

William handed the castle over to Eustace de Fauconberg, his successor as bishop of London, in 1223. (fn. 30) Eustace was succeeded as castellan by William Blund in 1227 and William by Randal Brito in 1229. (fn. 31) In 1230 the castle was granted to John de Burgh, who had married Hawise daughter and heir of the younger William de Lanvalai, to hold as William had held it, (fn. 32) but in 1232 John and his father Hubert de Burgh were ordered to deliver the castle to Stephen of Seagrave. (fn. 33) Stephen did not hold it long, as Ralph Gernon was constable in 1234 and delivered the castle to Hubert de Ruilli in 1236. (fn. 34) Richard de Muntfitchet was constable 1242-6 and sheriff 1244-6; (fn. 35) he may have been succeeded by the sheriff Richard of Whitsand, but in 1251 Henry of Haughton handed the castle over to John de Grey. (fn. 36) In 1255-6 the castle was committed to the sheriff Ralph of Ardern, but Guy of Rochford was keeper from 1256 until his banishment in 1258. (fn. 37)

In 1258 the castle was committed to the baronial leader Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk, who held it until June 1262 or later although he had been ordered to surrender it to the sheriff the previous July. (fn. 38) It then seems to have remained in the sheriff's custody until October 1266 when it was transferred to Thomas de Clare who held it until 1268 when it was returned to the sheriff. (fn. 39) In 1271 the castle was granted for 5 years to the absent Prince Edward whose attorneys committed it to the sheriff in 1271 and to John of Cokefield in 1272. (fn. 40) In 1273 it was granted for life to John de Burgh who had held it from 1230 to 1232. (fn. 41) After his death in 1274 the sheriff received the castle again, and he and his successor held it until 1276 when its custody was transferred to Richard of Holebrook. (fn. 42) Holebrook may have held it until his death between November 1290 and March 1291, or the castle may have been part of the manor of Colchester assigned to Eleanor of Provence (d. 1291) in June 1290. (fn. 43) From 1291 to 1350 it appears to have been in the sheriff's custody except 1325-7, when a separate keeper was appointed. The castle was among those fortified and garrisoned in 1307-8 and again in 1321-2. (fn. 44)

From 1350 onwards, except for the period 1368-71, the keepership of the castle was held separately from the shrievalty. By then the castle was of little or no military importance, and those keepers who had more than a financial interest in it were primarily concerned with the gaol and its prisoners. Robert of Benhale was keeper from 1350 to his death in 1364; Lionel of Bradenham was constable, presumably under Benhale, in 1359. (fn. 45) From 1371, when the sheriff withdrew, the castle was kept in hand by the Crown until 1376 when it was committed to George of Felbridge at a rent of £10. (fn. 46) Felbridge held until 1384 when the castle was granted to Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, (fn. 47) on whose attainder in 1388 it was granted successively, for their lives, to Sir Walter de la Lee, to Sir John Littlebury in 1395, and to Robert Tey in 1396. (fn. 48)

After the death of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, in 1447 the castle, with many of the duke's other estates, was granted first to John Hampton, and then two months later to Henry VI's queen, Margaret of Anjou. (fn. 49) Hampton seems to have served as constable under Margaret, for in that capacity he was held responsible for escapes in 1455 and 1460. (fn. 50) Margaret presumably held it until her attainder in 1461, when custody of the castle was granted for life to Sir John Howard, later duke of Norfolk, who was killed at Bosworth in 1485 and was succeeded by Thomas Kendall. (fn. 51) In 1496 the castle was granted for life to John de Vere, earl of Oxford, whose possession was declared in 1509 to be hereditary, allegedly deriving from the grant by the Empress Maud to Aubrey de Vere. (fn. 52) John de Vere (d. 1513) was succeeded by his nephew John de Vere (d. 1526), who was succeeded by his cousin another John de Vere (d. 1540). (fn. 53) Custody of the castle did not pass to the third John's son and heir, another John de Vere, but was granted in 1541 to his son-in-law Sir Thomas Darcy, later baron Darcy of Chich, who was replaced on Queen Mary's accession by Anthony Kempe. (fn. 54) Kempe himself was replaced in 1559 by Henry Macwilliams of Stambourne Hall (d. 1586) who was succeeded by his son another Henry Macwilliams (d. 1599). (fn. 55) The custody for the life of Mary Cheek, widow of the elder Henry Macwilliams, was then granted to her son-in-law Sir John Stanhope, later Lord Stanhope; the grant was extended in 1603 to include Sir John's son Charles, and finally confirmed in 1607 to John and Charles Stanhope for their lives. (fn. 56) The Stanhopes were still in possession when the Crown alienated the castle in 1629.

The original arrangements for defending the castle are uncertain, and evidence for a system of castle-guard is slight, but lands in Darleigh in Little Bromley in 1248, in Wix in 1281, in Elmstead in 1317, in Great Oakley in 1327, and in Great Holland in 1331, owed castle-guard rents to Colchester castle. (fn. 57) In 1173 and 1174 and again in 1216 wages were paid to knights and serjeants in the castle, (fn. 58) and later garrisons were presumably also professional soldiers. It was claimed c. 1600 that the town had paid rents and owed services at the castle until the beginning of Elizabeth I's reign, (fn. 59) but there is no evidence what they were or whether they were related to castle-guard.

As long as it was in the king's hands, Colchester castle, like other royal castles, was extraparochial and outside the borough. In the later 13th century it served as an office for the sheriff. (fn. 60) In the 17th century, and probably earlier, borough officers might not arrest within the castle yard, and those who were not freemen could trade within the castle precinct without municipal disturbance. (fn. 61) In the 17th and 18th centuries the castle was usually held to be extraparochial although John Wheeley paid rates to All Saints' parish c. 1690. (fn. 62) Its status was challenged in 1809 and overturned in 1810 when it was ordered that occupants of houses in the bailey be rated in All Saints' parish. (fn. 63)

The Norman castle was built in at least two main stages. (fn. 64) In the first, marked by the temporary battlements whose outline survived at first floor level in 1988, the keep was raised to one storey. Shortly afterwards the corner towers were heightened. The first stage, which was almost certainly intended to be temporary, has been associated with the threatened invasion of Cnut of Denmark in 1085. Surviving Roman walls may have served as outer defences in the castle's earliest years, but by c. 1100 a bailey formed by an earth bank probably topped by a palisade had been built. Building work was resumed after the threat of invasion had passed. The single storey keep was levelled up to the height of the corner towers and then raised to three storeys with corner towers.

Plan of the Castle, 1876 (scale 1 : 667)

Internally the keep was originally divided into two main sections by a north-south wall, but after the completion of the upper storeys a second north-south wall was inserted into the eastern section. The ground-floor rooms had minimal lighting and were presumably designed for storage. The great hall probably occupied the western section of the first and second floors, and the central section may have been divided from it only by arcades. The eastern division presumably contained chambers on two floors. The apsidal south-east corner contained undercrofts on the ground and first floors and the chapel on the second floor. The chapel had aisles and an ambulatory and was probably lit by a clerestorey. There were two staircases, one between all floors at the south-west corner and one rising from the first floor at the north-west corner. Comparison with the White Tower and other early keeps suggests that the intended entrance would have been on the first floor, probably at the west end of the south side, but the only structurally original outer doorway to survive is a minor one, once approached by a timber stair, close to the north-west corner. The surviving main entrance on the ground floor, at the western end of the south wall just east of the south-west tower, is formed by a moulded arch of three orders which is of c. 1100, but was probably not intended for its present position. In the 12th century a stone forebuilding, which replaced an earlier timber stair, was constructed to give it protection.

Late Saxon buildings, including a chapel, seem to have survived immediately south of the keep and, protected by Roman walls, probably formed part of the living quarters of the first phase of the castle. Before or during the early stages of the construction of the keep in the 1070s or 1080s, a stone hall with adjoining chambers in a 'double pile' building was built south-east of the chapel and aligned with it. In the early 12th century the chapel was rebuilt and a fireplace similar to those in the surviving upper storey of the keep was inserted into the west wall of the hall. (fn. 65)

About £24 was spent on the repair of the castle in 1161, and further work was done on the castle and the king's houses in it in 1167 and 1170. (fn. 66) In 1172-3, just before the revolt of the young king, the castle was strengthened by the construction of a bailey, at a cost of £50. The work was probably the replacement of the wooden pallisade on top of the Norman bailey rampart by a stone wall, also on top of the rampart. The bailey had certainly been surrounded by a stone wall by 1182-3 when £30, including the cost of a lime kiln, was spent on its repair. Possibly, however, the bailey made in 1172-3 was the lower bailey to the north of the Norman bailey. Further work, costing over £18, was carried out in 1173-4. (fn. 67)

The castle was repaired regularly in the late 12th and early 13th century. Work on the gutters and roof of the keep was carried out in 1180 and 1181-2, and as much as £30 was spent on unspecified works in 1190. (fn. 68) In 1192 and 1195 a total of 60 marks was spent on repairs to the castle and the houses in it. (fn. 69) A further 50 marks was spent between 1199 and 1202, and smaller sums in 1204 and 1210, perhaps on preparations for King John's visits in 1203, 1205, 1209, and 1212. (fn. 70) The work may have included the remodelling of the bailey buildings: in the earlier 13th century the east end of the chapel was squared off, and the rooms east of the hall were demolished and replaced by new buildings to the west and north-east, set into the tail of the rampart. (fn. 71)

The castle was strengthened during the civil war of John's reign. A carpenter was paid 22 marks for work there in 1214; in 1215 Stephen Harengood was allowed 45 marks for its repair and the men of Colchester were given timber to enclose it. (fn. 72) The work may have included the replacement of the early 12th-century forebuilding by a barbican, and, if it had not been done earlier, the creation of the north bailey, probably surrounded by a timber palisade, between the earlier bailey and the town wall. Repairs in 1218 and 1219 presumably made good damage sustained in the two sieges of 1216. (fn. 73)

The palisade blown down in 1218 and replaced at a cost of c. £6 (fn. 74) probably surrounded the north bailey. It blew down again in 1237 and was re-erected at a cost of c. £39 in 1239. It was repaired again in 1275-6. (fn. 75) Repairs to the main structure of the castle in the 1220s included reroofing the corner towers of the keep and further work on the houses in the bailey, possibly extensions to the buildings north-west and north-east of the hall. (fn. 76) In 1237 the constable was instructed to complete works on the castle, and in 1242 the king's houses in the castle were repaired. (fn. 77) The constable spent 100 marks on the keep in 1253, possibly on the building of the barbican, if that had not already been done in 1214. Several oaks were supplied for that and other work. Major repairs were carried out in 1256. (fn. 78)

The main gate, in the south-west corner of the bailey wall opposite St. Nicholas's church, was not recorded until the 1240s (fn. 79) although it had presumably been built at the same time as the bailey wall. It was repaired in 1256 and again in 1300. (fn. 80) As late as 1669 there was a bridge over the castle ditch, presumably part of the gate. (fn. 81) There may have been a second gate, for what appears to have been the main gate, at the south end of Maidenburgh Street, was called the west gate in 1439-40 and 1459. (fn. 82)

Further work was carried out in 1258-9. Materials supplied for a hall in 1258 included four carved posts, presumably for the roof. In 1259 Roger Bigod, the constable, was allowed twelve oaks to make a chamber in the castle, timber allowed earlier having been stolen. (fn. 83) Another twelve oaks were used in 1271, presumably in the great stone chamber made about that date or in the repair of the hall. The chamber, with the wardrobe, pantry, buttery, and cellar associated with it, was near a turret, probably in the keep. (fn. 84) In 1333-4 the constable removed the house in the bailey where the justices used to sit and also the portcullis and possibly other parts of the entrance to the keep, but repairs were carried out in 1350 and again in 1422. (fn. 85) The gaol was apparently still in the bailey in 1455, but it was then so old and weak that prisoners were able to escape through a broken roof. (fn. 86) All the bailey buildings, except possibly part of one in the south-east corner, had disappeared by 1622. (fn. 87)

By c. 1600 the castle was no longer defensible, and the cost of repairs, including reroofing the hall and dungeon and partly blocking 25 loopholes, was estimated at £84. (fn. 88) By 1622 houses on the east side of Maidenburgh Street had encroached on the bailey ditch if not the wall. (fn. 89) By 1637 the hall roof had fallen in, and several encroachments, totalling 2 a., had been made on the bailey. The lower bailey to the north was an arable field. (fn. 90) The castle played little or no part in the seige in 1648, although the royalists considered using it as a stronghold and carried out some work including recutting the south bailey ditch. In 1650 it was reported not to be worth the cost of repair. (fn. 91)

Charles, Lord Stanhope, seems to have begun the demolition of the castle, digging up stones and levelling earthworks. In 1649 he removed 200 loads of stone from the bailey wall, and in 1656 he demolished another section of wall, presumably also in the bailey. The last sections of the bailey wall, on the south and west, were removed by Sir James Norfolk, probably in 1669 when he leased building plots on the south-west of the castle to a London bricklayer. (fn. 92) Part of the main bailey gate, however, seems to have survived in 1683 when Norfolk leased a plot of land beside it. (fn. 93) John Wheeley had licence to pull the keep down in 1683, but did not do so. In 1685 he granted building leases for lean-to houses or sheds against the west wall of the keep, and converted part of the bailey, which Norfolk had leased to him, into a bowling green. The building leases were challenged in 1694-5, and Wheeley turned to demolition, knocking down the upper storey and the corner towers of the keep with the help of screws and gunpowder. Stone from the castle was sold for the repair of town bridges in 1696 and 1698. Wheeley, or possibly Stanhope who removed 100 loads of sand from the castle site, broke into the sand-filled Roman vaults beneath the Norman structure. (fn. 94)

In 1728 and 1729 Charles Gray landscaped part of the bailey, reconstructing the north side of the bailey bank as a straight terrace walk ending in a temple-like summer house at the west end. Below it on the north he formed a regular canal in the former ditch. (fn. 95) He may also have altered the eastern bank and ditch which are aligned on his house and on which he built a rustic stone archway. Before 1732 he broke through a ground floor window in the south end of the east wall to make a doorway into the new garden. He does not appear at first to have made much use of the keep itself, leasing the western part, including the Roman vaults, the former dungeon vault west of the chapel vaults, and a large chamber or granary, to a Colchester merchant in 1733, and the eastern part, including the chapel undercroft and vaults, to the county as a prison in 1734. (fn. 96)

The castle from the south-east, 1718

In 1746 Gray started work on the keep, rebuilding the south-east turret; in 1749 he restored the 'chapel' (in fact the undercroft), and in 1750 he repaired a room on the west side of the castle for use as a granary. He also strengthened foundations of the keep and the damaged vaults by covering them or filling them in with c. 400 loads of earth. The flat roof of re-used Roman bricks over the vault of the chapel undercroft, which survived in 1988, may have been built at that time. In 1754 and 1755 he remodelled much of the south side of the keep, creating on the first floor a library with large windows on its south side and an arcaded passage or piazza on the north. He built a similar arcade on the ground floor, to the east of the main entrance. In 1760 he raised the main staircase to the top of the surviving walls, roofing it over with a dome, and by 1767 he had built a room against the north-east tower. (fn. 97) Gray's work of restoration was apparently continued by James Round who presumably built the pitched roof which had replaced the flat roof over the chapel undercroft by 1791 and made the surviving east doorway between 1786 and 1804. (fn. 98) No further major alterations were made until 1931 when the Roman vaults were reinforced. In 1934-5 the keep was roofed in steel over a concrete frame, and a bridge was made to the main entrance where the ground had been dug away by recent excavations. (fn. 99)

The castle was used as a prison in 1226, and was delivered regularly from 1236. (fn. 100) It continued as the county prison until 1667, (fn. 101) even when the sheriff was not constable; in 1256, for example, the sheriff was ordered to keep a prisoner in the king's prison there by grant of Guy of Rochford the keeper. (fn. 102) The castle was transferred to the sheriff in 1275 expressly so that he might keep prisoners there, and when the keepership was granted to Richard of Holebrook the following year the sheriff's right of access for prisoners was reserved. (fn. 103) A grant of the keepership of the gaol made in 1343 was revoked in 1344 when it was found that the custody of prisoners belonged to the sheriff. (fn. 104) When the constableship was separated from the shrievalty in 1350 the constable or keeper was made responsible for the prisoners, and later constables were held accountable for escapes like any sheriff. (fn. 105) The sheriff resumed responsibility for the gaol under the Gaols Act of 1504. (fn. 106)

Presumably all keepers, whether sheriffs or not, appointed deputies who were effectively gaolers, like the constable's deputy who was pardoned for an escape in 1487. (fn. 107) John Flinchard and William de Roigne, constables accused of extortion in the 1270s, were probably deputies, as was Edmund, constable of the castle, killed in 1283. (fn. 108) Roger Chamberlain or Gaoler (d. 1360) and his wife Helen, who may have succeeded him, were commemorated by an inscription inside the main entrance to the castle. (fn. 109) Other gaolers were recorded in 1406 (William Dych keeper of Colchester castle or gaol), 1417 (Richard Baynard gaoler of the gaol of Colchester), and 1428 (Jacolet Germain). (fn. 110)

Among medieval prisoners were the vicar of Coggeshall, imprisoned in 1296 for fishing in Coggeshall abbey fishponds, and the master of St. Leonard's hospital, Newport, and the parson of Theydon Bois, imprisoned in 1331 and 1334 for forest offences. (fn. 111) There were Jews in the gaol in 1253, pirates in 1326, 'the king's enemies', perhaps opponents of the Despensers, in 1326, and heretics in 1428. (fn. 112) Later prisoners included Robert Mantell or Blosse, who claimed to be Edward VI, in 1580, prisoners of war in 1547, 1603, and 1653, protestants in 1557, popish recusants in 1596 and 1625, royalists in 1642, and Quakers in the 1650s and 1660s. (fn. 113) In the mid 17th century the castle gaol was used only for felons and rogues; prisoners taken in civil actions such as debt or trespass were not sent there. (fn. 114)

In 1619 the gaoler was accused of keeping an unruly alehouse in the prison and his successor in 1629 killed a prisoner who attacked his house. In 1631 the building was so dilapidated that prisoners were exposed to wind and weather, the gaoler was cruel, and the food inadequate. (fn. 115) In 1633 the roof of the dungeon leaked seriously, and on one occasion in 1646 the prisoners had to stand up to their knees in water all night. The county agreed to pay £40 for repairs to make the gaol secure, but paid only £20 although the gaoler spent £30. (fn. 116) There were still prisoners in the gaol in 1667, but by 1668 the county prison had moved to the Cross Keys, Moulsham. (fn. 117)

For most of the period 1691-1835, except for the years 1703-6 and 1712-16, part of the castle was used as a county prison for prisoners from the Colchester area. At first the prison was in the vault or dungeon west of the chapel vaults; in 1727 it was moved to the vaults of the chapel undercroft. (fn. 118) A house in the north-east corner of the keep, built before 1732, was occupied by the goaler. (fn. 119) In 1780 the prison comprised a dayroom for women and three cells for men, the latter divided from each other by gratings to allow the circulation of light and air from the two windows. All four rooms were in vaults below the chapel undercroft. (fn. 120) In 1787 and 1788 the gaol was enlarged by enclosing the south end of the eastern courtyard (formed by the east wall of the castle and the surviving partition wall) to make a prison of two storeys and an attic, the upper storey and attic containing two rooms for women, and the lower storey a day room and three cells for men. (fn. 121) Although the goal was in good repair in 1818 when the lease was renewed, new rules on prison accommodation introduced in 1824 made it almost useless, and it was closed in 1835. (fn. 122) The keeper's house was demolished in 1881. (fn. 123) A new county house of correction in Ipswich Road was opened in 1835 and closed in 1850. (fn. 124)

The undercroft was used as a militia armoury from 1819 to 1854; in 1855 it was dedicated by Charles Gray Round as a museum for the town. In 1865 Round gave a small room in the southwest tower as a town muniment room. (fn. 125)

Lands in Colchester were held with the castle in the early 12th century when Eudes the sewer gave the issues of the castle chapel to St. John's abbey. (fn. 126) A steward of the castle and lordship, distinct from the constable, was appointed in 1447, (fn. 127) but the office was not recorded again. Kingswood was said to belong to the keepership of the castle in 1217, (fn. 128) but it was not later included among the castle lands. In 1271 the lands were said to comprise 110 a. of arable and 28 a. of meadow. (fn. 129) The arable was reckoned at 180 a. between 1376 and 1559 but at only 124 a. in 1599, possibly a belated recognition of medieval alienations to the Greyfriars and others. The meadow was consistently reckoned at 27 a. Quit rents of 30s. a year were recorded from 1364. (fn. 130) In the earlier 17th century the lands lay in two main blocks. The first comprised Great and Little Sholand and Broomfield (c. 31 a.) between Lexden and Maldon Roads with the Long Strake (2 a.) on the other side of Maldon Road, all annexed to the bailiwick of Tendring hundred which was held with the castle. The second comprised the lands around the castle itself, the upper bailey (8 a.), Great Barley, Middle, and Home fields, (40-50 a.), Little Barley or Sheepshead field (5 a.), Great and Little Rowan meads (22 a.), and four parcels (10 a.) in King's meadow. In addition there were two arable closes (8 a.) north of King's meadow, which were annexed to the bailiwick of Tendring hundred, and Castle Grove (10 a.) a little way to the north-east in Mile End parish. Two thirds of Middle mill also belonged to the castle. (fn. 131)

The lands descended with the castle until 1683 when Robert Norfolk sold the keep to John Wheeley. He retained the lands, including the bailey, until his death in 1688 when they passed to his infant daughter Dorothy, who died the same year, and then to his sister Martha wife of Hope Gifford. Martha died without issue in 1722 and was succeeded by her heir at law Elizabeth, wife of John Embrey, who in 1725 sold half the castle lands to Francis Powell. In 1727 Powell sold to Mary Webster Castle Grove or Banks hedge, Sheepshead field, and the castle bailey, which were thus reunited with the castle. (fn. 132) Charles Gray bought the bailiwick of Tendring hundred, presumably with some of the lands annexed to it, c. 1750, and a further c. 57 a., including Sholand and Broomfield, in 1757. (fn. 133)

The tithes of the castle lands were held by St. John's abbey until the Dissolution and were then retained by the Crown until 1560 when they were granted to Sir Francis Jobson. They descended to his granddaughter Mary Jobson and to her son Edward Brooke who sold them to Sir James Norfolk in 1652. The tithes were thus merged in the castle estate, which became tithe free. (fn. 134)


  • 1. Arch. Jnl. cxxxix. 391, 399.
  • 2. R.C.H.M., Essex, iii. 51-4; Britannia, xv. 9-10, 31.
  • 3. Reg. Regum Anglo-Norm. ii, no. 552.
  • 4. V.C.H. Essex, i. 347; Cal. Pat. 1401-5, 468; Rot. Parl. iii. 670.
  • 5. Cal. Pat. 1429-36, 503-6; Feet of F. Essex, iv. 23; Complete Peerage, v. 736.
  • 6. E.R.O., D/DRe L3.
  • 7. [J. H. Round], Hist. and Antiq. Colch. Castle, 126-7; E.R.O., D/DRe E1: abstract of title.
  • 8. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1639-40, 57-8.
  • 9. E.R.O., D/DRe L3; D/DRe T4; Morant, Colch. 9-10.
  • 10. E.R.O., D/DRe L3; D/DRe T4, 6; Round, Colch. Castle, 128-9; E.A.T. N.S. iii. 149-51.
  • 11. E.R. lii. 168; lvii. 19; Round, Colch. Castle, 131.
  • 12. E.R.O., D/DR F58; D/DRh Z13; ibid. Boro. Mun., Council Mins. 1919-20, pp. 148, 294, 376-7.
  • 13. See entries in 'Colch. Chron.' discussed in Colch. Arch. Rep. i. 28-30.
  • 14. Pipe R. 1130 (H.M.S.O. facsimile), 138-9.
  • 15. Reg. Regum Anglo-Norm. ii, no. 1822; iii, nos. 634-5.
  • 16. E.A.T. 3rd ser. xx. 30-4.
  • 17. Pipe R. 1170 (P.R.S. xv), 110; 1173 (P.R.S. xix), 30-1; 1174 (P.R.S. xxi), 67, 74-5; 1180 (P.R.S. xxix), 2; 1190 (P.R.S. N.S. i), 104.
  • 18. Ibid. 1190 (P.R.S. N.S. i), 3.
  • 19. Ibid. 1191 & 1192 (P.R.S. N.S. ii), 24.
  • 20. Ibid. 1196 (P.R.S. N.S. vii), 111; I. J. Sanders, Eng. Baronies, 92; Rot. de Ob. et Fin. (Rec. Com.), 89.
  • 21. Pipe R. 1205 (P.R.S. N.S. xix), 183; 1210 (P.R.S. N.S. xxvi), 58.
  • 22. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 177.
  • 23. Rot. Litt. Pat. (Rec. Com.), 123; Pipe R. 1214 (P.R.S. N.S. xxxv), 1; Round, Colch. Castle, 40.
  • 24. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 179, 182, 184, 187, 193-5; Pipe R. 1215 (P.R.S. N.S. xxvii), 62.
  • 25. Rot. Litt. Pat. (Rec. Com.), 151. Cf. Memoriale Walteri de Coventria (Rolls Ser.), ii. 221.
  • 26. Rot. Litt. Pat. (Rec. Com.), 171-2; Ralph of Coggeshall, Chron. Anglicanum (Rolls Ser.), 179; W. Farrer, Honors and Knights' Fees, iii. 289, 291; S. Painter, Reign of King John, 367.
  • 27. Ralph of Coggeshall, Chron. Anglicanum (Rolls Ser.), 178-9; Mem. Wal. de Coventria (Rolls Ser.), ii. 229; Rot. Litt. Pat. (Rec. Com.), 171-2.
  • 28. Mem. Wal. de Coventria (Rolls Ser.), ii. 235.
  • 29. Pipe R. 1218 (P.R.S. N.S. xxxix), 65; Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 345, 365.
  • 30. Pat. R. 1216-25, 417.
  • 31. Ibid. 1225-32, 144, 241.
  • 32. Close R. 1227-31, 314; Round, Colch. Castle, 45; Farrer, Honors and Knights' Fees, iii. 289.
  • 33. Pat. R. 1225-32, 496-7.
  • 34. Close R. 1231-4, 499; Cal. Pat. 1232-47, 145.
  • 35. Cal. Pat. 1232-47, 294, 477.
  • 36. Ibid. 1247-58, 95, 98.
  • 37. Abbrev. Rot. Orig. (Rec. Com.), i. 15; Matthew Paris, Chron. Majora (Rolls Ser.), v. 725; Cal. Pat. 1247-58, 482.
  • 38. Cal. Pat. 1247-58, 655; 1258-66, 164, 214.
  • 39. Ibid. 1258-66, 645, 649; 1266-72, 218, 509.
  • 40. Ibid. 1266-72, 509, 642.
  • 41. Ibid. 1272-81, 41.
  • 42. Cal. Fine R. 1272-1307, 36, 57; Cal. Pat. 1272-81, 141.
  • 43. Cal. Pat. 1281-92, 424; Cal. Close, 1288-96, 84-5, 154.
  • 44. Cal. Close, 1307-13, 30, 50; 1318-23, 437; 1323-7, 423, 479.
  • 45. Cal. Pat. 1348-50, 577; 1364-7, 55; Cal. Fine R. 1347-56, 235; 1356-68, 377; Cal. Inq. p.m. xi, p. 476.
  • 46. Cal. Fine R. 1369-76, 141, 365; Cal. Pat. 1374-7, 368; P.R.O., C 260/87, no. 47.
  • 47. Cal. Pat. 1381-5, 442.
  • 48. Ibid. 1385-9, 424; 1391-6, 609; 1396-9, 1.
  • 49. Cal. Pat. 1446-52, 33; Rymer, Foedera (1737-45 edn.), v. 170.
  • 50. Cal. Pat. 1452-61, 242, 645.
  • 51. Rot. Parl. v. 476, 479; vi. 382; Cal. Pat. 1461-7, 124.
  • 52. Cal. Pat. 1494-1509, 73; L. & P. Hen. VIII, i (1), p. 28.
  • 53. Complete Peerage, x. 239-47; L. & P. Hen. VIII, i (2), p. 1285; ibid. xvi. p. 457.
  • 54. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xvi, p. 457; Cal. Pat. 1553-4, 283-4.
  • 55. Cal. Pat. 1558-60, 62; Round, Colch. Castle, 55.
  • 56. P.R.O., C 66/1544, m. 40; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1598-1601, 357; 1603-10, 15; 1580-1625, 426; Round, Colch. Castle, 55.
  • 57. Bk. of Fees, ii. 1409; Cal. Inq. p.m. ii, p. 227; vi, p. 69; vii, p. 25; P.R.O., C 143/208, no. 32.
  • 58. Pipe R. 1173 (P.R.S. xix), 31; 1174 (P.R.S. xxi), 67; Rot. Litt. Pat. (Rec. Com.), 192.
  • 59. E.R.O., D/DRe Z3.
  • 60. H. M. Cam, Hund. and Hund. Rolls, 89, 146.
  • 61. E.R.O., D/DRe Z3; P.R.O., E 317/Essex/10.
  • 62. P.R.O., E 134/4 Wm. and Mary Mich./5.
  • 63. Morant, Colch. 10; E.R.O., D/DRe E1; D/B 5 Sb6/9, orders of 6 July, 1 Oct. 1810; ibid. Acc. C15.
  • 64. Arch. Jnl. cxxxix. 391-401.
  • 65. Ibid. 396-9.
  • 66. Pipe R. 1161 (P.R.S. iv), 67-8; 1167 (P.R.S. xi), 158; 1170 (P.R.S. xv), 110.
  • 67. Ibid. 1173 (P.R.S. xix), 13; 1174 (P.R.S. xxi), 75; 1183 (P.R.S. xxxii), 19: the use of the word castrum implies that the stone wall was not that of the keep which is consistently referred to as the tower, turrim.
  • 68. Pipe R. 1180 (P.R.S. xxix), 2; 1182 (P.R.S. xxxi), 102; 1190 (P.R.S. N.S. i), 104.
  • 69. Ibid. 1191 & 1192 (P.R.S. N.S. ii), 171; 1195 (P.R.S. N.S. vi), 219.
  • 70. Pipe R. 1199 (P.R.S. N.S. x), 87; 1200 (P.R.S. N.S. xii), 37; 1202 (P.R.S. N.S. xv), 259; 1204 (P.R.S. N.S. xviii), 46; 1210 (P.R.S. N.S. xxvi), 58; Rot. Litt. Pat. (Rec. Com.), Itin. of King John (unpaginated).
  • 71. Arch. Jnl. cxxxix. 331-2, 337, 401.
  • 72. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 179, 184, 193-5.
  • 73. Pipe R. 1218 (P.R.S. N.S. xxxix), 78; 1220 (P.R.S. N.S. xlvii), 116.
  • 74. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 389; Pipe R. 1218 (P.R.S. N.S. xxxix), 78.
  • 75. Cal. Lib. 1226-40, 301, 316, 366; P.R.O., E 159/17, rot. 19d.; E 101/460/26.
  • 76. Cal. Lib. 1226-40, 18, 55, 121; Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 529; ii. 34, 202; Arch. Jnl. cxxxix. 403.
  • 77. Cal. Lib. 1226-40, 282; Pipe R. 1242 (ed. H. L. Cannon), 216.
  • 78. Cal. Lib. 1251-60, 96, 297; Close R. 1251-3, 306, 331, 453.
  • 79. Colch. Cart. ii. 327-8; B.L. Arundel MS. 145, f. 4v.
  • 80. Cal. Lib. 1251-60, 297; Close R. 1296-1302, 350.
  • 81. E.R.O., Acc. C15.
  • 82. Ibid. D/B 5 R1, f. 89; D/B 5 Cr69, rot. 16d.
  • 83. Close R. 1256-9, 199, 341, 414.
  • 84. P.R.O., E 101/460/26; Cal. Lib. 1267-72, p. 167.
  • 85. Cal. Inq. Misc. ii. 346; Cal. Pat. 1350-4, 10; 1416-22, 443.
  • 86. Cal. Pat. 1452-61, 242.
  • 87. E.R.O., Acc. C49: map of castle estate.
  • 88. Ibid. D/DRe Z3.
  • 89. Ibid. Acc. C49.
  • 90. E.A.T. N.S. iii. 144-5.
  • 91. Round, Colch. Castle, 59; Arch. Jnl. cxxxix. 407; P.R.O., E 317/Essex/10.
  • 92. E.R.O., D/DRe L3; D/DRe Z10; ibid. Acc. C15; E.A.T. N.S. iii. 146-7; Morant, Colch. 8.
  • 93. E.R.O., D/DRe T5.
  • 94. Ibid. D/DRe L3, 5; ibid. D/B 5 Ab1/22; Morant, Colch. 7-8; E.A.T. N.S. iii. 149.
  • 95. E.R.O., D/DRb F6, 7.
  • 96. Ibid. D/DRe E7; Round, Colch. Castle, 130.
  • 97. E.R.O., Acc. C15; ibid. drawings in Mint portfolio; E.A.T. N.S. iii. 151-3; Round, Colch. Castle, 101-2, 130-1.
  • 98. E.R.O., drawings in Mint portfolio; B.L. Add. MS. 29927, f. 8.
  • 99. E.R. xliv. 243-5; Mus. Jnl. xxxv. 453-5.
  • 100. Pat. R. 1225-32, 37; R. B. Pugh, Imprisonment in Med. Eng. 67-9.
  • 101. E.R.O., Q/SR 412/55; Q/SR 416/97.
  • 102. Close R. 1254-6, 348.
  • 103. Cal. Pat. 1272-81, 127, 141.
  • 104. Ibid. 1343-5, 113, 157.
  • 105. Cal. Fine R. 1347-56, 235; Cal. Pat. 1377-81, 267; 1401-5, 477; 1408-13, 114; 1452-61, 242; Cal. Inq. Misc. vi, p. 326.
  • 106. 19 Hen. VII, c. 10.
  • 107. Cal. Pat. 1485-94, 156.
  • 108. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 139; P.R.O., JUST 3/35B, rott. 24, 26.
  • 109. E.A.T. N.S. xvi. 42-7.
  • 110. E.R.O., D/B 5 Cr36, rott. 2d., 3; Cal. Pat. 1416-22, 67; Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, ed. S. R. Catley, iii. 586.
  • 111. Cal. Close, 1288-96, 474; 1330-3, 110; 1333-7, 245.
  • 112. Close R. 1251-3, 393; Cal. Close, 1323-7, 479; Cal. Pat. 1324-7, 294; Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, iii. 586.
  • 113. Cal. S.P. Scot. 1547-63, no. 217; Acts of P.C. 1630-1, p. 96; Round, Colch. Castle, 53-9, 62-3; V.C.H. Essex, ii. 67, 221; for Mantell see above, Tudor and Stuart Colch. (Intro.).
  • 114. E.R.O., D/DRe L2, Z3.
  • 115. P.R.O., ASSI 35/61/2, no. 20; ASSI 35/71/2, no. 4; ASSI 35/73/1, no. 10.
  • 116. E.R.O., Q/SBc 2/13; Q/SBa 2/61-2, 64.
  • 117. Ibid. Q/QO 1, ff. 182v., 203; Q/SR 412/55; Q/SR 416/97; Essex Q.S. Order Bk. 1652-61, ed. D. H. Allen, pp. xxi-xxii.
  • 118. E.R.O., Q/SBb 1/8; Q/SBb 365/26; Q/SO 3, p. 156; Q/SO 4, pp. 117, 128, 345; Q/SO 16, p. 410; Round, Colch. Castle, 130.
  • 119. B.L. Add. MS. 29927, f. 8; E.R.O., D/DRe E7.
  • 120. J. Howard, State of Prisons (1780), 221; plans of 1819 and 1830 in E.R.O., Q/AGb 3.
  • 121. B.L. Add. MS. 29927, f. 8; Gent. Mag. lxxiv (2), 705, 1096-8; J. Neild, State of the Prisons (1812), 139.
  • 122. E.R.O., Q/SBb 452/56; 475/10/1; 476/16/1; Q/SO 34, f. 240.
  • 123. Round, Colch. Castle, 107 n.
  • 124. 2nd Rep. Inspector of Prisons, Home Dist. [89], p. 341, H.C. (1837), xxxii; 3rd Rep. [141], p. 216, H.C. (1837-8), xxx; E.R.O., Q/SO 40, p. 77.
  • 125. E.R.O., Q/AMm 1/1, 1/2, 1/4; Q/SBb 452/39, 56; ibid. D/DRe Z13; E.R. lvi. 7-8; Round, Colch. Castle, 102.
  • 126. Colch. Cart. i. 3.
  • 127. Cal. Pat. 1446-52, 42.
  • 128. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 345.
  • 129. Cal. Inq. Misc. i, p. 131.
  • 130. Cal. Pat. 1374-7, 368; 1461-7, 124; 1553-4, 283; 1558- 60, 62; P.R.O., C 142/518, no. 20; Round, Colch. Castle, 137, 139. Cal. Inq. p. m. xi, p. 476 reads 80 a. of arable in 1364, but the MS. (P.R.O., E 149/23, no. 13) is torn at that point and probably originally read 180 a.
  • 131. E.R.O., Acc. C49: map of 1622; P.R.O., E 178/5293, printed in E.A.T. N.S. iii. 143-5; E 317/Essex/10. For Middle mill see below, Mills.
  • 132. E.R.O., D/DRe E7, 8; D/DRe L5; D/DRe T6; ibid. Acc. C15.
  • 133. Round, Colch. Castle, 134, 139, 145; E.R.O., D/DRe T9.
  • 134. E.R.O., Acc. C15; P.R.O., C 142/176, no. 44; C 142/684, no. 20; cf. Round, Colch. Castle, 143.