Colchester reports


June 2018 – Visit to Colchester Roman Circus

This month we were out and about. 10 of the members met at Colchester Circus Visitors Centre. We had a guided tour of the Roman circus site. We began by looking at a large, scale model of a Roman Circus. Our guide explained how it was used and what happened. This was very helpful as it gave us an overview of what we saw outside.

There is only a small section of the actual stones of the base of one of the seating stands, these are covered with Perspex to protect them. The rest of the excavations have been preserved by being recovered and some have now been built over. In the visitors centre there are pictures of Colchester with the circus superimposed so you can see what was found and where it was.

They have built a replica of the starting gates on top of the originals. They are only two foot high but are most impressive. It shows you how large it was. We then walked to the opposite end in order to get an idea of the whole circus. Some of this has been covered but there are different coloured stones to show the extent of it.

We were fascinated by the information and the fact that so much has been discovered. This is at the moment the only Roman Circus to have been unearthed in England, at the moment.
Gill Peregrine

12 May 2018 - To Fetch A Pail of Water by Patrick Denny.

Patrick gave us the most interesting talk on the water system of Colchester through the ages. He began with the Romans, showing us how sophisticated they were. They built water pipes to bring clean water into their houses and had warm air under the floor to heat their houses.

When the Romans left, the Medieval English went back to their old ways. They had to get their water from streams, rivers and wells and later from pumps. That meant they had to carry heavy buckets of water every day. This situation did not improve until the later part of the Victorian era. At this time the river Thames was so full of rubbish that it smelt dreadful. They still thought that disease was carried by smell, but it was about this time that it was discovered that it was micro- organisms in the water.

From this time, the later Victorian years, things did gradually begin to improve. Patrick asked how many of us remember using pumps and outside W.C.’s and of course there were several hands raised.

Having known about the Roman system, I have wondered why it was ignored when they left; Suspicion of the invaders possibly?

This was a fascinating talk, enjoyed by us all.
Gill Peregrine

April 2018 – Forbidden Love by Fred Freather

Although Fred's talk was titled Forbidden Love, It could just as easily have been called Love and the Law, although I don’t think that would have attracted such a large gathering!

Fred based his talk on the 7 deadly sins- very loosely. We were enlightened on many of the laws which have changed over the years. For instance, did you know that incest is now not illegal? Also you can now marry your dead wife’s sister, a law which has changed many times over the centuries.

As for women being in charge, Lucretia Borgia ran her country in 1501 while her father [the Pope] went to visit his mistress!

Fred kept us completely enthralled, entertained and very well informed. The main point being to look at the law in relation to our ancestors, how attitudes have changed as well as the law and how that would have affected our families.

Thank you Fred for a most entertaining afternoon.
Gill Peregrine

March 2018 - Researching your Scottish Ancestors by Mike Turner

The main websites for Scottish Research are: - Scotland’s People, Scotland’s Places and the National Library of Scotland.

Scotland’s People ( divides its records into 5 categories: - Statutory Registers, Church Registers, Census Returns, Valuation Rolls & Legal Records. Statutory Registers are the civil registers of births, marriages and deaths and these start in 1855, which is later than in England. Statutory Registers also include Civil Partnerships, Divorces and Dissolutions. Church registers cover Births & Baptisms, Banns & Marriages, Deaths & Burials and Other Events and start in 1553 for Kirk Records [Church of Scotland] Roman Catholic and Non-Conformist Records are also available. The Census returns start in 1841 the same as England. Valuation Rolls list Owners & Occupiers of buildings and other properties in Scotland from 1855. Legal Records cover Wills & Testaments, Coats of Arms, Soldiers’ & Airmen’s Wills and Military Service Appeals Tribunal records. Scotland’s Places have minor tax records for example Land tax, Carriage tax, male and female Servant’s tax, amongst others. You can search Scotland’s People for free (although you must register for a free account first) but if you want to see images of the actual records you will need to buy credits.

National Library of Scotland has maps (see of most of the British Isles, not just Scotland. They have Ordnance Survey maps from the 1840s to the 1960s for a range of scales up to 25inch/mile maps.

Scotland’s Places ( has lots of information about places in Scotland which is free to search.

You will find military records in the National Museum of Edinburgh.

This was a interesting talk especially for those members with ancestors across the border.
Gill Peregrine

February 2018 – Writing Your Family History by Helen Matten

Helen presented a very interesting talk. It was well illustrated with photographs and examples on screen.

She explained that the most import part of writing about an ancestor was to keep to a plan. It is so easy to digress and go down a branch line, although interesting it may not be entirely relevant.

You need to decide on the style of your writing. Is it to be Fictional, Factual, Memorial, Essay or Biographical? You need to divide it into chapters, to be interesting, watching for clichés and unnecessary repetition. Don’t be negative about anything that you have been unable to discover, try to make positive statements.

Never forget your aim and why you are writing it.
Gill Peregrine

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