Grey Friars

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A FASCINATING CORNER OF THE TOWN – FULL OF COLCHESTER HISTORY. Colchester is well known for being Britain’s oldest recorded town. Its Roman origins and links with Boudicca, together with the Norman castle and recently-discovered Roman Circus, make it an important tourist venue. Next to the castle, enclosed within the north-eastern corner of Colchester’s encircling Roman / Medieval wall, lies an area whose story has never been fully told. At the heart of this site in an imposing position on the crest of East Hill stands Grey Friars. It not only has a beautiful C18th neo-classical building at its core, but was for a hundred years a much-loved icon of educational excellence and, even centuries before 1755 when the current house was built, its site had religious, social and educational significance. Occupants have included friars, nuns, clergy, physicians, horticulturists, an industrialist and students (young and adult).

How this project began

From 2008, the building stood empty having been sold by Essex County Council, who judged it to be no longer fit for the purpose of education. It is now enjoying a renaissance as a hotel, and once more its beautiful and extraordinary internal features can be enjoyed by many. Situated within easy walking distance of many interesting surviving features from across the centuries, it makes a pleasant starting point for a walking tour of the town.

The idea for this book sprang from an exhibition and guided tours of Grey Friars conducted in September 2007 as part of Heritage Open Weekend. This was during the building’s sad last months as the headquarters of Colchester’s award-winning Adult Community College. A large number of people attended, not only past students and tutors of the college and local residents, but also alumni of Colchester County High School for Girls whose preparatory and junior departments occupied the building from 1920 to 1957.

It was a remarkable weekend; many visitors were emotionally affected by memories and reminders of its history and architecture, which we were strongly requested to record. So here begins the story.

More contributions come in every month. Be sure to re-visit this site occasionally to see what others have sent us to share.

Visited the newly refurbished Georgian townhouse yet? Pop into the GreyFriars Hotel for a coffee and see the work of craftsmen from 1755 faithfully restored. GF 2015


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