On Thursday 20 March 2014, The Princess Royal toured the massive renovations that were part of the £4.2 million refurbishment of Colchester Castle in Colchester, Essex. The funding was provided by the Heritage Lottery Find and is slated for reopening on 2 May.
— ColchesterCastle (@Colch_Castle) March 20, 2014
The Princess was met by dignitaries from various areas of the country including Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Lord Petre, Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell and a group of approximately 150 people. She was given a private tour of the castle and spoke with the castle staff and volunteers who were part of the renovation project.
William the Conqueror desired a fortress on the route between East Anglia and London and Colchester was the idyllic place. Ten years after the Norman invasion, the construction of Colchester began in 1076. Colchester Castle is the largest Norman keep in Britain.
A keep is a construction that was usually found in castles. Its key function was to afford a safe house if the castle was attacked. A keep typically comprises four levels; a chamber, a great hall, a guardroom, and a basement.
Construction stopped in 1080 likely to the risk of a Viking assault. The castle was finally completed in the beginning of the twelfth century.
The castle was surrounded and secured by King John in 1215. By 1350 the castle no longer served as a fortress or military installation. It has seen various uses and incarnation since then. In 1645 it was used as a county prison. During the Second English Civil War, Royalists Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas were executed there in 1648.
Quaker James Parnell was martyred there in 1656.Parliament condemned the building in 1650. John Wheely, an ironmonger was tasked to demolish the castle in 1683 but gave up on the project after it proved insolvent.
Mary Webster purchased the castle in 1727. Webster was married to Colchester MP Charles Gray. The couple leased out the keep and various areas of the property. Gray began restoration in the late 1740s. The refurbishment included a park and summer home atop the ancient Norman castle fortifications.
In 1922, the Castle and the connected parks were handed over to the town of Colchester.
Whilst visiting, she bestowed a royal seal of approval to the castle. “She was absolutely fascinated by seeing a Norman castle built in top of the Roman temple. It is still a work in progress but you can see it is going to be an incredible tourist attraction with a new dimension.” Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell told the East Anglian Daily Times.
Anne’s great- grandmother Queen Mary visited the castle in 1938.