After the Roman retreat from southern Britain the Anglo Saxons came to dominate the area, forcing the remaining locals to move to Wales, how cruel can you be? Occupation of Colchester had continued and the Saxon's built a Minster there. Once William the Conqueror (a name he preferred to his previous title, 'William the Bastard') was in control an abbey was begin shortly after the Norman's began to build the castle on the ruins of the Roman Basilica. The Priory did not do well. Monks arrived and left in short order, possibly because the bishop was not too generous towards them. This was to be the story of the following years. While Bury St Edmunds developed with the body of the saint in residence Colchester had no relics, no books being written and no great men to bring in the crowds or the wealth. Many efforts were made over the years to produce a satisfactory life but this place never became wealthy.
Colchester itself appears to do little but exist around the five hundred years of the priories existence, although they did receive a charter from the king and around 1300 AD contained a population of possibly 4000, although the taxation roll only names 390! Conservative politicians fiddling tax even then? Occasionally a King would visit, the castle would be endangered by a siege from the Danes or French, an occasional plague and of course the Peasants revolt passed through in 1381. 'Long live John Ball!'
In 1403 the then Abbot, one Geoffrey, became embroiled in a plot to bring Richard II to the throne. Not surprisingly this never occurred and in spite of being given clemency he once more got involved in treasonable acts. He died in prison of a disease of the throat. These men were very influential in their day, related to Kings and Queens, often of the royal line themselves, and on the odd occasion a Christian might make it near the top. Politics was too important to let that happen. However by 1539 the then man in charge, one John Beche, disagreed with Henry VIII to the extent that he lost his head over it on December the 1st that year. And a Merry Christmas to you mate! Since that time the building has fallen into disrepair. Built from materials at hand, no building stone in this county, Roman remains were used alongside anything lying around. An impressive building arose, the walls once covered by plaster which has since fallen away to reveal the flints beneath.
Now standing somewhat desolate the council have ensured the ruin will not collapse any further and the place forms a hideaway for the derelicts of the town. Three such were minding their own business as I wandered about yesterday, heedless of the fool with the camera or the many others who followed the path from one of the town's stations into the heart of the place. A somewhat sad story. A towering building that never saw fame, was a disappointment to many who spent time there, and now stands forlorn, almost hidden from view. The stonework, mostly Roman I say, around the door shows some extent of the hope that someone once had for the place.