Colchester Castle

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

Colchester Castle, Essex

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.

Permanent collections

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 Funded works

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.

Visitor information

Guided tours of the Roman vaults, Norman chapel and castle roof are available with a Blue Badge Guide, after admission to the castle. The neighbouring Castle Park offers an ideal picnic spot. Tickets to the castle allow re-entry, so visitors can enjoy a leisurely lunch in the park before completing their tour.

Art we've helped buy at Colchester Castle

Venue details

Colchester Castle Castle Park, Colchester Essex C01 1TJ 01206 282939

Entry details

Free with National Art Pass (standard entry £7.50)

Daily, 10am – 5pm (Sun from 11am)