Colchester, St Mary at the Walls
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Tower used during the Civil War Siege of Colchester
Why 'at the walls'?
The name may cause some confusion until you rtealise that the church stands immediately beside the old Roman town wall of Colchester. One of the major surviving gateways through the wall - the Balkerne Gate - is just a stone's throw from the churchyard.
The earliest church here was recorded in 1206 and until 1857 it was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. A chantry was established here in 1328 by Joseph Powell, who gave money for 2 priests to pray for him, his parents and benefactors, and 'all faithful Christians'.
St Mary's has seen its fair share of historic drama. It was here during the reign of Queen Mary that Protestants were burned at the stake. Colchester saw more burnings than any place in England outside of London.
Colchester was held for the king during the Civil War. Parliament besieged the town in 1648, an attack that lasted 12 weeks. During the siege a one-eyed gunner named Thompson hauled his 'saker' (a small cannon) to the top of the tower of St Mary's church. The vantage point allowed him to direct damaging fire onto the besieging troops under the command of Lord Fairfax. The Parliamentary gunners concentrated their fire on St Mary's tower, and eventually hit the unfortunate Thompson and sent the gunner and his weapon falling to the ground. The damage caused by Parliamentary guns is evident; when the tower was finally repaired in 1750 the builders used red brick, which stands out clearly from the reused Roman materials in the lower part of the tower.
A later twist on the tale of Thompson the one-eyed gunner is the idea that the story was the origin of the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty. There doesn't seem to be any truth to the tale that Thompson was the 'egg' who 'had a great fall', but it makes a nice story.
While you can't depend on St Mary's being open if you drop by on a tour of Colchester, its location between the Jumbo Water Tower and the Roman Balkerne Gate makes it worth mentioning if you are touring historic Colchester.
About Colchester, St Mary at the Walls
Address: Church Street, Colchester, Essex, England, CO1 1NF
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Just inside the Balkerne Gate, at the ends of Church Street
Website: Colchester, St Mary at the Walls
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Jumbo Water Tower - 0 miles (Historic Building)
Colchester Roman Town Walls - 0.1 miles (Roman Site)
Colchester, Holy Trinity Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church)
Colchester, St Martin's Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church)
Colchester, St Helen's Chapel - 0.3 miles (Historic Church)
St John's Abbey Gate - 0.3 miles (Historic Building)
Colchester Castle Museum - 0.4 miles (Castle)
Natural History Museum, Colchester - 0.4 miles (Museum)
Nearest Accommodation to Colchester, St Mary at the Walls: