Colchester Castle

Essex, CO1 1TJ

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Archaeological collections covering 2,500 years of history, including some of the most important Roman finds in Britain.

Colchester Castle, Essex

Built on the site of the Temple of Claudius, a symbol of Roman power when Colchester was the capital of Britain, Colchester Castle is the largest Norman keep in Europe.

It was constructed around 1080 after William I ordered a royal fortress to be built at Colchester, but for most of its life the castle has been used as a prison - in 1645 'Witchfinder General' Matthew Hopkins appropriated it as a base for interrogating and imprisoning witches. It first opened to the public as a museum in 1860, and it is in that capacity that it continues today.

A major redevelopment project in 2013-14 saw the interior refreshed and updated, and allowed for much-needed repairs to be carried out on the fabric of the ancient building.

A selection of brand new displays were also installed, as well as an interactive hub and a full-size burial reconstruction, which includes audio character stories, video projections, and replica objects for visitors to handle.

The award-winning Castle museum now houses extensive archaeological displays ranging from the earliest evidence of human occupation in Essex to the Siege of Colchester in 1648. The museum's collection contains several important artefacts, including a collection of gold coins and an Egyptian mummy.

Art we’ve helped buy at Colchester Castle

The medieval figure of St John the Baptist was found by a metal detectorist in Essex in 2008, and is one of few objects of its kind to survive the destruction of religious art during the Reformation. The gold statue features John the Baptist in the robes of a prophet. With his right hand he gestures to a platter held in his left, representing the dish on which his head was brought to Salome following his execution.

Venue information

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5pm (Sun from 11am)

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)