Mid Anglia Group, Richard III Society

Archive for the tag “Colchester”

The siege of Colchester and its landmarks

The siege of Colchester took place 163 years after the battle of Bosworth ended the Yorkist era, together with the life of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, the local magnate. However, a time travelling visitor in either direction would have noticed surprisingly few differences, some of which were quite subtle:

St. John’s Abbey had mostly been demolished during the Reformation but the land had passed to the Lucas family, of whom Sir Charles was a Royalist leader. The Gatehouse (left) remained, as did the Abbey church, by then a family chapel.



The Siege House (left), now a popular restaurant was right at the edge of the besieged, walled town by Eastgate and still shows some signs of artillery damage.





Lucas’ headquarters were on the west side of Head Street, now in an outbuilding (left) to Ellisons’ solicitors.








St. Botolph’s Priory, as you can see (left), also suffered a lot of damage from Parliamentarian guns.








During the siege, a gunner named “One-eyed Jack” Thomson was reputedly perched on the tower of St. Mary-at-the-Walls (left). He was eventually shot down by a sniper, possibly leading to the “Humpty Dumpty” nursery rhyme.




The siege lasted from mid-June to late August 1648. At its conclusion, General Fairfax sentenced to death: Lucas, his colleague Sir George Lisle and Bernard Gascoigne. The latter, being foreign, was reprieved but Lucas and Lisle were shot on 27th August, to the north of the Castle, on a spot (left) where it is said that “the grass never grows”.

Mediaeval Colchester’s Lost Landmarks, John Ashdown-Hill.
The Siege of Colchester 1648, Stephen Lark.

PS Speed’s (accurate, for once) 1610 map of Colchester (left) is also of use.


A walk through Colchester

Here are some of the classic mediaeval sites and ruins that we visited in March:

St. John’s Abbey Gatehouse, the last remaining part of the c.1400 Abbey, accessible through a subway under Southway. Sadly, since 2003, the stairs have been deemed unsafe so the upstairs rooms, which we have previously visited with John Ashdown-Hill, are now out of bounds.



John Speed’s 1610 map. Unlike Leicester, I think he has the Blackfriars in the right place here, although he unaccountably forgot to include Town Station.





Scheregate Steps, the only surviving mediaeval gateway through the Roman wall. They allowed southward access to St. John’s Abbey from the town.








A 16th century drawing, showing the Roman walls, Eastgate and the town’s many medieval churches.




A statue of St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, on the Town Hall, where there are eight others, on the front and at the side.








The Red Lion, formerly owned by Sir John Howard, as he then was, and which many of us ate tea in, with John, a few years ago.




Tymperleys, founded in the late fifteenth century for Sir John’s steward.





The ruined Priory of St. Botolph (and St. Julian), after whom Town Station is actually named. Founded in c. 1099, this was the earliest house of Augustinian canons in England.







For further information see John’s book Mediaeval Colchester’s Lost Landmarks.

Coming to Minster Lovell

Sadly, most of the Mid-Anglia group cannot make this event as we will be busy Howard-hunting in Thetford on 18 May. Nevertheless, with Stephen David and Michele Schindler speaking about the mysteries of the life and death of Francis, Viscount Lovell, it promises to be fascinating.

Here is a link to the event.

2019 Group venues

We will be going to: Colchester (for a talk), Thetford, Rayleigh or the Essex Hadleigh, Stoke by Nayland and Ipswich for the AGM

John Ball and Colchester


Here are some of the panels just inside the door of the Colchester Playhouse, now a theatre-themed public house. They illustrate John Ball, after whom a minor town centre road is also named, becoming a priest, a prisoner at Maidstone and then participating in the 1381

Peasants’ Revolt (from 30 May), fighting at Blackheath (on 12 June) and then being executed at St. Alban’s on 15 July that year.

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Here are some of the panels just inside the door of the Colchester Playhouse, now a theatre-themed public house. They illustrate John Ball, after whom a minor town centre road is also named, becoming a priest, a prisoner at Maidstone and then participating in the 1381

Peasants’ Revolt (from 30 May), fighting at Blackheath (on 12 June) and then being executed at St. Alban’s on 15 July that year.

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Newsletter June 2018

MAG Newsletter June 2018

Newsletter June 2017

MAG Newsletter June 2017

Red Lion Walk in Colchester

This informative and picturesque wall was not there when we walked through Colchester in November 2014:

Colchester Castle

A small group of us met at the front of the Castle, at the southern end of Castle Park, on Saturday afternoon. We first viewed the outside of the present Norman structure, as well as the Lucas-Lisle memorial around the back, marking the spot that these two local Royalist leaders were shot in August 1648 after the siege. It is said that grass never grows there as a result.

Memorial at Colchester Castle


The inside of the Castle is arranged chronologically. The upstairs is devoted to the Iron Age and Roman eras. The many artefacts include some Iron Age tools and then illustrate the arrival of Claudius’ army (43 AD), the Temple of Claudius now laying under the Castle, Boudicca’s revolt (60), the later Roman period after Constantine’s conversion and their departure. We saw, by chance, a depiction of a boar among the Iron Age artefacts.


Iron age boar

The rest of Colchester’s history is displayed downstairs, starting with the Anglo-Saxons who abandoned towns for their first few centuries. Under a Viking threat in the North and Midlands, Edward the Elder and other Wessex Kings reurbanised the parts of England they still ruled. The Castle and other town landmarks such as St. John’s Abbey date from soon after the Norman Conquest. Several town charters, from the reigns of Richard I to William III, are on display. John Howard Duke of Norfolk, Francis Viscount Lovell and the Stafford brothers of Grafton  are glossed over a little here but the two centuries after Bosworth are not. The final exhibit in order is the siege and prison department, which names twenty-three people held here and then burned during Mary I’s short reign, amounting to eight per cent of her national total. Matthew Hopkins, the “Witchfinder-General” caused several mostly harmless people to be hanged between Bury St. Edmunds and Chelmsford during the 1640s although he died before the siege. Sir Charles Lucas, whose family bought St. John’s Abbey after it was dissolved, was a Royalist leader during these three months as was Sir George Lisle. Arthur Capell Baron Hadham, descended from Richard’s sister Anne of Exeter, was beheaded on Tower Hill the following March. James Parnell was a teenaged Quaker preacher imprisoned here until he died of starvation in 1655.

Colchester castle

In the century following the Restoration, Colchester Castle was intended to decay entirely but was purchased and rescued so, from the outside, looks like the complete article, although it may originally have been a little taller.


Those Howards again

GoldenLionWe all know by now that the Red Lion in Colchester was originally the White Lion because this was the emblem of the Howards but was renamed because the family was out of favour at James I’s accession.

History definitely wasn’t on my mind today but fish and chips in Ipswich town centre was. I chose the Golden Lion, a well-known Wetherspoon by the Cornhill, and read the above note on my menu. Again, it is a former White Lion in Howard country and is unrecorded before 1571, unlike the Colchester venue which is established as the home of Sir John Howard in the years before the Mowbray Dukes of Norfolk became extinct in 1482.

The latter date is significant because the fourth Howard Duke of Norfolk, Thomas, was executed in 1572 for treason that encompassed marrying Mary of Scotland. His attainder was not reversed until the Restoration, perhaps because Mary’s son and grandson were the next two Kings of England, although another Thomas Howard was Earl of Arundel and Norwich during the Civil War years. As early as July 1603, the fourth Duke’s second but eldest surviving son, inevitably nThomas, was raised to the Earldom of Suffolk.

Cheers and a Happy Easter to all. Hope to see you all at Stowmarket and Gipping tomorrow.

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