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The first legionary fortress built in Britain was built after Rome invaded the nation in 43 AD on the site which is now Colchester. The 20th Legion withdrew in 49 AD, the barracks were converted into housing and the fortress was converted into a town. The town was significant due to its port as well as its size.

It is the earliest recorded town in England, having been recorded in 77 AD. Residents were craftsmen specializing in glass, tiles, bricks, bronze and blacksmithing. By the fourth century, there was a large Christian community, and in fact, Britain’s earliest known Christian church was built there.

The main industry in the 12th century was wool, which was woven and dyed in Colchester, and other major industries included leather, grain, and oyster fishing in the Colne River. At the end of the 12th century, a Jewish community was established. In the last 13th century, however, all Jews were expelled from the country.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, Colchester was repeatedly besieged by the plague, the worst of which were those in 1603-04 and 1665-66.

The cloth industry there deteriorated during the 18th century due to avid competition by the North of England, and by the early 19th century, it was all but dead. The wool mills were converted to grain and flour mills. The Essex County Hospital was constructed in 1818. In 1819, gas streetlights were installed. The first modern police force was established in 1836. St. Botolph’s Church was built in 1837. The railway to London went into service in 1843.

By the end of the 19th century, steam engines and other machines were manufactured in Colchester. Cobblers made a healthy living, and there was a bit of brewing going on.

Bootmaking and shoemaking were no longer Colchester industries by the early 20th century, while engineering expanded. Electric lights came to the town in 1901, and the Town Hall was erected in 1902. Electric trams were a valid form of transportation from 1904, though they were replaced by buses in 1929.

 

 

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