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Historic places to visit in Essex

Step back in time - Six Historic places to visit in Essex

Discover the past, and maybe learn something new, with our list of historic sights to visit around the county.

colchester castle

Colchester Castle, Colchester

The building began in 1076, and it was constructed on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius. Colchester Castle was built when Colchester was the first Roman capital of Britain.

Colchester Castle takes you through 2000 years, including some of the most important events in British history. The exhibitions that are ready to be discovered include art, the Bronze Age, Iron Age, natural history, the Romans, the Stone Age and more! Not forgetting the Castle is home to a variety of events throughout the year, plenty to fill your diary.

st johns abbey gate

St Johns Abbey Gate, Colchester

St Johns Abbey Gate is a considerably detailed 15th century gatehouse, and is all that remains of the Benedictine Abbey of St John the Baptist. This gate stands outside the town of Colchester, at the centre of the northern boundary. The abbey was founded by Eudo Dapifer, William the Conqueror’s High Steward and Constable of Colchester Castle in 1095.

The gatehouse is made up of two-stories which would have made a powerful statement of the strength of the abbey with the battlemented roof. It also features turrets at each corner of the gate, with large pinnacles. The gate is well decorated, especially on the north front, with flintwork panels and ornamented statues. This is an important sight to visit, as it has a pivotal place in Essex’s history.

st botolphs priory

St Botolph’s Priory, Colchester

Just a short journey from St Johns Abbey Gate, St Botolph’s Priory is also located in Colchester. Founded in 1100, St Botolph’s Priory was one of the first Augustinian priories in England.

This is an impressive example of early Norman architecture. This is due to the elaborate west front being one of the best kept surviving examples from this period. The church also displays massive circular pillars and round arches. St Botolph’s Priory is a free admission sight and is open during the daylight hours (check website for full details).


Layer Marney Tower, Colchester

The Layer Marney Tower, built in the 1520s, located near to Colchester. This is the tallest Tudor gatehouse in England, with 99 steps to the top and appears to have 8 floors! An illusion of double windows were built into the Tower to make it seem to have more floors.

The Layer Marney Tower was built by Henry Lord Marney, it is a Tudor Palace built as a statement house. Activities here include climbing to the top of the tower, exploring the gardens and enjoying a piece of cake and a cup of tea in the Tea Room. Layer Marney Tower was visited by both Henry VIII and later by Elizabeth I, so if it’s fit for royalty it's probably something that you won't want to miss!

audley end house

Audley End House, Saffron Walden

This is one of England’s grandest stately homes, a stunning mansion near to Saffron Walden. Audley End House is one of the greatest houses of the early 17th Century, built between 1605 and 1614.

During May through to September you may bump into costumed Victorian characters wandering the halls; they’ll be happy to answer all your questions in authentic historical fashion.

This house demonstrates development through its interior and landscape over five centuries. This is in response to changes in the fortunes of its owners and trends in the fashions of the period. On a day out you will be able to admire the beautiful interiors and walk the glorious gardens.

Hadleigh Castle

Hadleigh Castle, Benfleet

This is a fantastic day out, you have the opportunity to explore the beautiful Hadleigh Country Park and what remains of the Castle. Built during 1215 by Hurbet de Burgh, the ruins of the Castle represents the impressive fort that it once was, used to repel French invaders during the Hundred Years' War. This Castle was gifted to Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr from Henry VIII (for all the good it did them).

All that remains now is two of the ancient towers and part of the curtain wall. Behind the ruins you’ll be able to see the Thames estuary and Essex marshes, fantastic setting for nature walks. Hadleigh Castle is open any time during the day and well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome.

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