Roman Colchester

23 January 2012

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Sack of the Temple of Claudius, Colchester, © Peter Froste. All rights reserved, DACS 2011Sack of the Temple of Claudius, Colchester, © Peter Froste. All rights reserved, DACS 2011

They’re now thought to be where the Roman residents of Colchester made their last stand against Boudica’s revolt – but for centuries they were forgotten and hidden away. It’s again possible to visit them and appreciate both the glory and the disaster of Roman Britain.

The vaults beneath Colchester Castle were the foundations of one of the largest Roman buildings every constructed in Britain: the Temple of Claudius. (The castle itself was built by the Normans in the 11th century over the ruins of the temple.)

The Temple was constructed in the years after AD 54 and dedicated to the cult of the Emperor who had conquered Britain a decade before. The size, and the cost, of the building offended the local tribes and in AD 60 or 61, when Boudica led her 100,000 strong army to a poorly-defended Colchester, it was a prime target. The inhabitants of the city, many of them retired legionaries, fled to the Temple, where they are said to have held out for two days before meeting their grisly ends.

Roman vaults, Colchester Museum. © Vanessa Gordon

The vaults of the Temple can be visited on a guided tour of the castle – which is also home to one of the best collections of Roman art and craft in the country. If you’re coming to Colchester you can also see the oldest and longest Roman town walls in the country and the sites of Britain’s only Roman chariot-racing circus, two of only five Roman theatres in the UK and the oldest-known Christian church in the country.

For more information, please visit

Guest post by Bill Hayton, Destination Colchester.

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