Spotlight on the Dutch Quarter
Published at: 28/09/2017
Located just to the north of Colchester's High Street, and within the natural boundary formed by the ancient Roman wall, is the Dutch Quarter, a quiet residential area steeped in the town's history
The name is derived from the Flemish Protestant weavers and clothmakers who emmigrated to England and settled inthe Colchester after fleeing persecution in their own country. Many of the houses in the area actually pre-date their arrival and were previously home to the town's Jewish community and other immigrants. They were famed for the production of Bays and Says cloth, in fact the After Office Hours pub on the High Street was once named the Bay and Say, and as a result if their industriousness and the quality of their work Colchester was one of the most prosperous wool towns in England at the time, and the refugee community established themselves as a major economic force in the town.
The word Dutch may well have been a label applied to all foreigners who settled in the town in the between 1550 and1600 after fleeing religious persecution in what is now Belgium, Holland and France. Nevertheless, the refugees were mainly Flemish. By 1586 there were believed to be more than 1,200 such refugees living in the Colchester.
Many of these families built their homes in a similar to the houses you would have seen in Flanders during that period, with doors and other woodwork painted red and green, window frames painted white and rendered walls painted a light green. More than 60 of these homes still exist in the Dutch Quarter.
Examples can still be seen in East Stockwell Street, Northgate Street (formerly called Dutch Lane) and Maidenburgh Street, and West Stockwell Street where Jane Taylor, author of the world-famous nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star lived with her sister Anne between 1796 and 1810 and wrote the verse aged 23.
During the early 20th Century the Dutch Quarter sadly fell into a state of disrepair, with many of the building becoming very run down and facing demolition. Thankfully in the 1950's Colchester Council and the town's Civic Trust stepped in, and with the aid of a Civic Trust Building award the area was regenerated.
Today the Dutch Quarter is a fantastic example of historic architecture, with many of the streets fairly unchanged in 500 years and ripe for exploring during a trip into town.
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