Painted by Thomas Sparrow Published by W. Kevner Re-published by Swinbore & Walter Survey Map of the Town of Colchester

Painted by Thomas Sparrow Published by W. Kevner Re-published by Swinbore & Walter Survey Map of the Town of Colchester


‘To the Society of Antiquary’s in London this actual Survey of the ancient town and borough of Colchester in the County of Essex is most humbly dedicated by their obedient servant Thomas Sparrow Land surveyor in Hammersmith, Middlesex surveyed and delined – MDCCLXVII’


This print shows the layout of Colchester in 1767. The images and the text which accompany the map refer to the main lay out of the town, the castle, the Arms of the town and a description of the place and its activities. It is mentioned that the castle was built on the remains of the Palace of King Cole or Coel. King Coel was supposedly the father of Saint Helena and grandfather of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. According to some historical sources Coel took over the British throne after killing King Asclepiodotus following a rebellion. Rome having approved of Coel’s kingship had sent a senator, Constantius Chlorus who married his daughter, Helena. Helena was later to give birth to a son who became Emperor Constantine the Great, thus creating a link between Britain and the Roman Empire. It is also mentioned that the castle was built by Eudo Dappiser, who founded St John’s Abbey in Colchester and that the dome was added by Charles Gray (q.v.) the present owner of the castle.

In another part of the engraving, a passage refers to the Arms of the town of Colchester. The Arms represented here show the True Cross with the three crowns of the Magi. On either side of the Arms there is on the left Albion with a lion at her foot and on the right St Helena, the patron saint of Colchester who is believed to have found the true relics of the Cross and the nails of the crucifixion.

In the description of the town we then learn that Colchester at the time of the engraving enjoyed ‘Fine Heathfull Air’, the water was good and food was abundant. It mentions Oliver Cromwell’s siege which destroyed much of the Roman wall. It also states how many markets took place in the town, when and where, and describes the main activity of the town as being the manufacture of Bays and Says. Finally it celebrates Colchester as the best place for oysters in the country.

Other illustrations represent ‘The North Front of St John’s Abbey Gate’, ‘The South Prospect of St John’s Abbey Church’ which was not longer in existence at the time, and the ‘N.W. Prospect of the Ruins of St Botolph’s Priory Church’.

Evelyne Bell