Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

St. Botolphs Priory (Colchester)

St. Botolphs Priory was an important religious establishment in the ancient town of Colchester in Essex.

The priory was founded by a priest named Ernulph in 1095, not long after Colchester Castle, and was the first English house of Augustinian canons.

There was considerable rivalry between St. Botolphs and the nearby Benedictine Abbey of St. John the Baptist, which led to unseemly brawling in the 14th century in a street riot, before Pope Urban V mediated between the two. St. Johns Abbey Gatehouse survives.

St. Botolphs was surrendered to the crown in 1536 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

After the Dissolution, it remained in use as a church until badly damaged in the Siege of Colchester in 1648.

Today, the ruins are picturesque and impressive, having been built largely of reused Roman brick. The West front still stands, with three portals, together with some nave walls. Above is the surviving half of the earliest large round window in England.

Until the late 20th century it was possible to climb stairs to the top of the West front, but this has been discontinued for safety reasons.

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