COLCHESTER, a town of England, in the county of Essex, is situated on the banks of the navigable river Colne, on the top and northern side of a gentle eminence. The river, which is crossed by three bridges, flows on the north and east sides of the town. Although the greatest care was taken to preserve the ancient walls which surrounded the town, and consisted of stone and Roman brick, yet they are now in a great measure des troyed. When the walls were perfect, they enclosed an area of 108 acres, and the town was entered by four prin cipal gates and three posterns. Several bastions, and an old Roman fort, contributed to the strength of the town, and deep ditches were cut where the defences were weakest. The part of the town with the out walls is ex tremely irregular. The principal street, which stretches due east and west, is adorned with several elegant houses and shops, but is broken by the intervention of the old market-house and other small buildings.
Upon an eminence, called the Bailey, in the centre of the town, to the north of the high stteet, stand the venera ble ruins of the castle, built by Edward, son of Alfred the Great. The outer walls of the keep, which are remarkably thick and solid, are nearly perfect, and, like the rest of the building, seem to be constructed of stone, flint, and brick. The principal public buildings in Col chester, are the Baize-hall, where the goodness of the baize manufacture is tried by a corporation ; the Guild hall, called also the Moot-hall, built by Eudo ; the town. gaol ; the the theatre ; the free grammar school ; the barracks, for cavalry and infantry ; the pub lic churches ; the ruins of St John's Abbey, and St Botolph's Priory ; and several charity-schools and alms houses.
St John's Abbey, which was a very magnificent build ing, was founded in 1097 by Eudo Dapifer ; but very little more that the entrance gateway, built nith hewn s.one and flint, now remains. The construction of the abbey church was singular, having a central tower with circular angles terminated by small spires of a conical form. The priory church, which contains sonic interest ing specimens of interlacing arches and brick ornaments, was almost demolished during the civil wars. The origi nal length of the building within the walk was 108 feet, and its breadth, including the nave and aisles, 44 feet.
St Mary Magdalen's hospital was founded for persons afflicted with leprosy. It consists of a few old buildings to the north of St Magdalen's church. The principal churches are St James's, founded about the reign of Edward 11. and consisting of a body chancel and side aisles, with a square tower at the west end ; All Saints church, built before 1356, and having its tower chiefly of flint, with some stone work at the angles ; St Nicho las's church, which is partly in ruins, the tower having fallen in through the body and chancel some years ago ; Trinity church, which contains a monument to the famous Dr Gilbert, the founder of the science of mag netism ; St Martin's, erected about the year 1327, which is now in ruins, and has its tower partly composed of Roman brick ; St Peter's, founded previous to the con quest ; and St Mall's, which stands in an elevated situa tion, near the south-west corner of the town, and which had its main tower raised 12 feet, was repaired in 1729.
The river Caine is navigable for large vessels within three miles of the town, and up to the Hythe it is capa ble of receiving brigs and small vessels which come close to the houses, where there is an extensive quay and custom-house. The principal articles of manufac ture are, baize, say, scrges, and some other woollen articles, which give employment to the inhabitants in the town and its vicinity. About 100 looms are employed in silk goods, and a considerable trade, is carried on by means of the oyster fishing, the Colchester oysters being in great demand.
The following is the population of this town in 1811 : Number of inhabited houses, 2111 Number of families that occupy them, . 3093 Uninhabited houses, 57 Families chiefly employed in agriculture, 480 Families chiefly employed in trade, &c. . 1152 Males, 5400 Females, 7144 Total population, 12544 For a full account of the history and antiquities of Colchester, see Morant's History of Essex, vol. 1. ; Phi losophical Transactions, Aug. 1699 ; The History and description of Colchester, I 803 ; and Brayley and Britton's Beauties of England and Tleales, vol. v. p. 286. (o)