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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: St Botolph’s Priory, Colchester.

St Botolph's Priory.

May 2019. I love how the majority of Colchester’s sights are dripping with history and free to visit! From Castle Park and Hollytrees Museum to Firstsite and Colchester Natural History Museum, it was certainly a refreshing change from the relentless costs of London. Another free Colchester delight that’s well worth your time is St. Botolph’s Priory, the ruins of an ancient Augustinian monastery dating back to the 12th century.

St Botolph's Priory in Colchester.

St Botolph’s Priory.

Located on Priory Road next to the somewhat uninspiring exterior of St. Botolph’s Church, the priory ruins are a fine example of early Norman architecture. Constructed from flint and a distinctive orange-red reused Roman brick, St. Botolph’s was one of England’s first religious houses to adopt Augustinian rule. As a result, it had the authority to set regulations, correct abuses and inflict punishments over subsequent houses of Augustinian order.

St Botolph's Priory Colchester.

A fine May afternoon in Colchester.

Nevertheless, St. Botolph’s was a small institution dwarfed in every sense by nearby St. John’s Abbey. In fact, the two institutions had something of an ongoing feud. Fiercely contested disputes over the control of The Church of St. Peter, for example, eventually led to violence!

St John's Abbey Colchester.

St John’s Abbey Gate, Colchester.

Photo courtesy of John Armagh. 

In the mid 14th century St. John’s Abbey filed an official complaint about St. Botolph’s to The Pope. They claimed that three priory members forced themselves into the abbey and stabbed one of their monks! The matter was eventually settled the following year without formal charges.

St Botolph’s Priory.

Visit Botolph's Priory Colchester.

A St Botolph’s selfie.

It was interesting to load up the ruins’ history on my phone as I wandered through the various giant pillars and round arches. Sadly for St. Botolph’s Priory, it was game over in 1536 when Henry VIII passed into law The Dissolution of the Monasteries Act. In order to save themselves from being executed for treason, the prior and seven canons all took an oath to relinquish their positions and bow to Henry’s supremacy.

Pardon door St Botolph's Priory.

St. Botolph’s Priory.

And so the priory was left to rot. Over a hundred years later in 1648, St Botolph’s was reduced to the ruinous state we see today during The Siege of Colchester. I was literally gulping up the palpable sense of drama as I walked, quite unaware that a group of drunken morons had just parked themselves on a nearby bench.

“Nobody’s home mate, ha ha ha!” one of them shouted, a cigarette behind his ear, beer can in hand. Then he tripped over his own shoelaces and fell on his ass, which was quite funny.

What To See & Do, Colchester.

Graveyard in Colchester.

The graveyard at St. Botolph’s Priory.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the priory’s nave became a burial spot and indeed you can still visit the small graveyard set discreetly behind the ruins. It’s a fantastically peaceful and leafy spot, set away from the main road. The perfect place to come and think and read. Or, in this case of this guy, to destroy a newspaper-wrapped portion of fish and chips. Oh man, I could actually smell the vinegar from my discreet vantage point from between a cluster of trees. Time for a chippy myself, I thought. And off I went, to see what I could find.

Colchester Town Trail.

St Botolph’s Priory.

For more on my adventures in this pretty English town, check out my other travel reports from Colchester.

Or maybe search further afield with my articles from all around England.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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16 Comments

  • the #1 Itinerary

    Great post 🙂

    June 27, 2019 - 10:17 am Reply
    • leightonliterature

      Hey, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      June 27, 2019 - 10:18 am Reply
      • the #1 Itinerary

        No problem 🙂 check out my blog when you get the chance ?

        June 27, 2019 - 10:19 am
      • leightonliterature

        On the way…

        June 27, 2019 - 10:20 am
  • rkrontheroad

    Great photos and stories. It’s hard to imagine the entirety of that structure – the ruins are poignant, and the remaining arches, standing alone, make their own compelling patterns.

    November 14, 2020 - 4:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Very eloquently put. Thanks for reading!

      November 14, 2020 - 4:46 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    Between the ruins and the pretty St John’s church it looks like a great place to visit.

    November 14, 2020 - 5:03 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers, thanks for reading and dropping me a line. Colchester is a bit of an unsung gem.

      November 14, 2020 - 5:05 pm Reply
  • Memo

    There’s a quiet dignity to ruins of columns and arches. Always makes me introspective. Never would have thought of monastic violence though. I just never picture that level of competition. Thanks for the edification.

    November 14, 2020 - 5:45 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    It really is the free stuff that makes the visit all the more sweet! St. Botolph’s Priory’s Augustinian monastery reminds me of St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, which I only got a glimpse of almost five years ago. Goes to show that there are plenty of ruins in England, and it’d be neat to see them all! Definitely putting Colchester on my list of places to visit, should I return to the country someday. 🙂

    November 14, 2020 - 9:13 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah, Canterbury it’s definitely on my England list whenever I make it back. I’ll make a note of that abbey. Over the moon with how people have responded to the Colchester articles, thanks for your continued readership!

      November 14, 2020 - 9:18 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    I love the historical depth of these kinds of cities, a lot happened before they looked like they do today. Knowing this past often explains a lot about the actual city. Taking an interest in it is certainly more rewarding than drinking cheap beers on a bench 🙂

    November 15, 2020 - 3:51 am Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re quite right, although there’s a great deal of history and British tradition behind beer drinking on benches too, ha ha. Not to mention the falling over. Just kidding of course, thanks for following the Colchester series. Final article out tomorrow!

      November 15, 2020 - 8:20 am Reply
      • Lookoom

        Great sense of humour 🙂

        November 15, 2020 - 8:23 am
  • Stella

    Shame about the morons, but I do love the look of the place. That gatehouse is a fabulous thing and it needs me to visit it!

    November 15, 2020 - 5:49 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Quite right! Glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks, Stella!

      November 15, 2020 - 5:52 pm Reply

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