Colchester Castle Museum: engaging with the past

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Colchester Castle Museum © David Gill

The collection within Colchester Castle contains one of the best presented collections of objects from Roman Britain. It is displayed in an imaginative and engaging way from the mosaics and (funerary) sculptures to the inscriptions and pottery.

In spite of this Colchester has, surprisingly, not featured as high in the list of museums for the RSA Heritage Index.

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Roman funerary monuments in Colchester Castle © David Gill

Colchester: Roman walls

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Colchester © David Gill

There are still substantial remains of the Roman walls surrounding the colony at Colchester (Camulodunum). The more recent civic desire to protect the Roman heritage of the town is made clear in the signs discouraging exploration of the walls (‘by checking children … climbing upon or otherwise injuring it … any wilful damage to it’).

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Colchester, town wall © David Gill

Disney, Danbury and the RNLI

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Danbury church © David Gill

Danbury Place in Essex was the home of the Ffytche family. Frances Elizabeth was the daughter of Lewis Disney (1738–1822) and his wife Elizabeth Ffytche (1749–87); they took the family name of Disney-Ffytche on marriage in 1775. Elizabeth was born in Madras.

Frances Elizabeth was born in 1776, and her (surviving) sister Sophia in 1777. After Elizabeth’s death in 1787, the Disney-Ffytche family moved to Paris in 1791, and then fled to Italy in 1793 where they met (Sir) William Hillary (in 1795). Frances Elizabeth married Hillary on February 1800, and they then lived at Danbury. They were granted a divorce in 1812, yet the memorial inscription describes Frances as the wife of Sir William Hillary (and he had remarried in August 1813). Hillary went on to found what became the RNLI. Frances died at Jericho House, Blackmore, her daughter’s home, in August 1828.

Frances’ sister Sophia was married to Dr John Disney, benefactor of the chair of archaeology at Cambridge.

Essex Sea-horse

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St Mary the Virgin, Layer Marney, Essex © David Gill

This sea-horse features among the sea creatures at the bottom of a large mural of St Christopher in the church of St Mary the Virgin at Layer Marney in Essex. The painting dates to c. 1520; its good condition is due to the fact that it was overpainted in the Reformation. It was rediscovered when the church was re-ordered in 1870.

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St Mary the Virgin, Layer Marney, Essex © David Gill

Hadleigh Castle: lead-melting hearth

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Hadleigh Castle © David Gill

The royal castle of Hadleigh was sold by Edward VI in 1551 to Baron Rich (Lord Lieutenant of Essex from 1552), and was soon dismantled. A lead-melting hearth was constructed on the floor of the former hall.

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Hadleigh Castle © David Gill

Celebrating 100 Years of Guides to the National Heritage Collection

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1917

2017 marks the centenary of the first guidebooks to what can now be termed the National Heritage Collection. One of the first was written by Sir Charles Peers on St Botolph’s Priory in Colchester and now in the care of English Heritage. The guidebook was reissued as a ‘blue’ guide in 1964.

The 1917 guide include a fold-out plan of the priory inside the back cover. This was prepared by E. Dace Brown in July 1916. The guide was divided into three sections: The Augustinian Rule; History of St Botolph’s Priory; and The Priory Buildings.

Leading Visitor Attractions 2016: English Heritage

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Pendennis Castle © David Gill

The 2016 list of Leaving Visitor Attractions in the UK has been published. The top English Heritage site continues to be Stonehenge (at no. 23) with 1,381,855 visitors, with a modest 1.1 % increase on 2015 figures.

The remaining English Heritage properties are (with overall ranking):

  • Dover Castle (no. 98): 333,289
  • Osborne House (no. 116): 265,011
  • Tintagel Castle (no. 125): 229,809
  • Audley End House and Gardens (no. 149): 165,799
  • Whitby Abbey (no. 151): 151,810
  • Clifford’s Tower (no. 154): 146,703
  • Battle Abbey (no. 160): 137,771
  • Kenwood (no. 161): 134,416
  • Carisbrooke Castle (no. 164): 127,012
  • Wrest Park (no. 166): 124,305
  • Kenilworth Castle (no. 169): 107,993
  • Housesteads Roman Fort (no. 172): 102,004
  • Eltham Palace and Gardens (no. 176): 94,635
  • Bolsover Castle (no. 179): 91,880
  • Walmer Castle and Gardens (no. 180): 91,752
  • Pendennis Castle (no. 191): 73,907

The major increase in visitors were seen at Osborne House, Tintagel Castle, Audley End House and Gardens, Battle Abbey, Carisbrooke Castle, Wrest Park, Walmer Castle and Gardens. There was a significant downturn in visitors for Kenwood.

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Walmer Castle and Gardens © David Gill