The way Colchester lost its status as England’s first capital city and was replaced by London

Colchester is steeped in British history.

Though it was the home to the seat of Iron Age kings, the Essex town is most famous for its key role when the Romans ruled Britain.

As well as claiming to be Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester was turned into the nation’s Roman capital in AD49.

Read more: The gruesome tale of the last person executed in Essex who killed his wife because of her ‘temper’

But Boudicca, the leader of an uprising against the Romans, had other plans.

So here’s how Colchester lost its capital status to London, and why we can blame Boudicca…

Back when the Romans invaded Britain, Colchester was known as Camulodunum – The ‘Fortress of the War God Camulos’ and it had somewhat been the capital of Britain before the Romans even arrived.

That’s because the Iron Age tribal leader Cunobelin, described by the Romans as ‘King of The Britons’, ruled from Camulodunum.

When the Romans then invaded Britain, Colchester was the first place in Britain to be given the status of a “Roman Colonia”.

This effectively gave it city status.

In AD49 its fortress was turned into a civilian settlement named ‘Colonia Claudia’ after the Roman Emperor.

In doing this, Colchester became the first capital of the new Roman province of Britannia.

A Colonia was a settlement for retired veteran soldiers who gained Roman citizenship upon discharge.

According to Visit Colchester, this meant the Essex town acted as a focal point for “Roman-ness” in the new province of Britannia.

If you’re looking for a way to stay up-to-date with the latest breaking news from around Essex, the EssexLive newsletter is a good place to start.

The twice-daily update will deliver the top news and features to your inbox every morning and evening.

We choose the most important stories of the day to include in the newsletter, including crime, court news, long reads, traffic and travel, food and drink articles and more.

Signing up to the newsletter is simple. All you have to do is to click here and type in your email address.

It’s one of the many ways that you can read the news that matters to you from EssexLive.

How Colchester fell and lost its capital status

As the capital of Roman Britain, Colchester acted as a “beacon” for transmitting Roman civilisation and values throughout Britannia.

That’s also why when the Iceni tribal Queen Boudicca led and uprising against the Roman rule, Colchester was her target.

The AD60 revolt ravaged ‘Camulodunum’, as it was attacked and destroyed by the rebelling Brits.

Any Roman inhabitants of the town were slaughtered, with a massacre taking place in the temple of Claudius – somewhat perfectly representing the backlash to the Roman rule.

And so Colchester was brought to its knees. What had been a bustling heartland of the Romans in Britain was quickly turned to rubble.

It paved the way for the ‘Colonia’ losing its capital status…

With Colchester attacked by Boudicca and at the centre of a rebellion, the Romans had to find another British focal point.

According to the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), the Romans shifted the capital of Britain to London shortly after Boudicca’s revolt.

And the place we now call the capital of the United Kingdom, London, had several advantages over Colchester.

Firstly, MOLA said that London was the nearest point to the sea where a bridge could be built over the Thames relatively easily.

In fact, it’s thought that in 48 AD, the first London Bridge was built by the Roman military.

Secondly, Colchester was more inland than London and was harder to reach by boat.

Freight ships could easily reach London to unload their goods.

And finally, it was possibly due to Colchester’s deep history that London took its place as the capital of Roman Britain.

This is because Colchester had “political baggage” – it had been a major British tribal capital and was the heart of the rebellion by Boudicca.

London however, was a “new built” Roman city – it had little history in comparison and was seen as the perfect place for a capital city.

So that’s how Colchester’s loss of its capital status could be put down to Boudicca.

Thousands of years later it’s now just a town, fighting to gain city status. It’s a far cry from its days as the British capital…

Want the latest Essex news direct to your inbox? Sign up here.

Read More
Read More

Recommended For You