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Colchester's Top Five Claims to Fame

Published at: 12/09/2017

Being Britain's oldest recorded town and its original Roman capital, Colchester has a unique and fascinating history. It also has a few interesting claims to fame. Here are Jackson & Co's top five:

1) The most famous nursery rhyme ever written, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star was composed by Jane Taylor in the attic of the house in West Stockwell Street behind the Town Hall, where she lived with her sister Anne between 1796 and 1810. She wrote the rhyme, which has been sung by generations of children around the world, in 1805 and a plaque on the wall identifies the house.

2) Colchester is home to Britain's only Military Corrective Training Centre, or prison, known in military parlance as the 'Glasshouse'. It began life as a German prisoner-of-war camp, and after 1946 was used for soldiers doing national service to do 'time' before being discharged from the army. It's most famous inmates were the notorious East End gangsters the Kray Twins, one of who is reputed to have broken a corporal's jaw in retaliation for shouting at him.

3) In 1939 songwriter Ross Parker, together with Hughie Williams, wrote "We'll Meet Again", the wartime favourite immortalised by Vera Lynn. Parker then found himself stationed at Colchester's Roman Way Camp. In the throes of composing a patriotic new song to raise the spirits of the British public during the war he found himself unable to get the peace and quiet he needed for his creativity, so sought solitude in a pillbox at the northern boundary of the camp. It was here that he completed his work on "There'll Always be an England" which Vera Lynn also recorded and popularised.

4) When you watch the epic movie Ben Hur do you think of Colchester? Well now you should, because did you know that Roman Colchester was home to the only known Roman Chariot Racing Arena, known as the Roman Circus, in Britain? At 470 metres long and 75 metres wide it could house around 8,000 spectators and would have been home to several sports including chariot racing

5) Proportionate to the town's population, during the 16th century more Protestant martyrs were burned alive in Colchester than in other town in England. They were executed for heresy in during the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary I. Foxe's famous 1563 'Book of Martyrs' describes, 'The ancient and famous city of Colchester for the earnest profession of the gospel became like unto the city upon a hill and... gave light to all those who came to confer there.

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