Go Away: Colchester United

The front cover of an AtoZ of Colchester on a red background

Colchester, as you’ll see as we move forward, is a town  of bold claims. Its first is that it is Britain’s oldest recorded town. Not oldest town you understand. Just the first that someone felt compelled to write about. 

That person was Roman Pliny the Elder, who wrote of Colchester that it was, ‘a town in Britain, 200 miles from Anglesey. Three stars. Chariot parking is a nightmare, but would visit again’. Colchester was made the first capital of Roman Britain by Emperor Claudius, a bold move that he probably regretted when he sobered up. According to Wikipedia ‘the city reached its peak in the second and third centuries AD’; not an especially glowing endorsement of the present day town centre. Bet they didn’t have a Costa in 218AD either.

Between 1550 and 1600 a large number of weavers and cloth makers from Flanders emigrated to Colchester. I haven’t been able to find a figure for the number who crossed the channel, but it can’t have been that many in juts a ten minute period. Still, they certainly made an impression, as to this day Colchester boasts an area of the city known as the Dutch Quarter. Don’t get your hopes up for windmills, canals and a thriving liberal cafe culture though, it’s pretty much just a bunch of old houses. 

What’s it famous for?

OK, time for some more of those bold claims we mentioned. First off, Colchester is reputed to be the home of three of the best known English nursery rhymes; ‘Old King Cole’, ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and ’Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. Apparently ‘the legitimacy of these claims is disputed’. No shit. It’s write up there with that moment in Austin Powers where Dr Evil says his father claimed to have invented the question mark.

Colchester has also been suggested as one of the potential sites of Camelot – the legendary court of King Arthur that is, not the people who do the National Lottery. Again, academics consider this to be unlikely. What else Colchester? Are you a black belt in karate? Did you get through to the last round of try-outs to be one of Prince’s backing dancers, but they wouldn’t hire you because they said you’d make Prince look bad? And don’t tell us, you’ve got a really cool twin town, but we wouldn’t know it as it goes to a different school.

In the book 1984, Colchester was the scene of a nuclear detonation; George Orwell presumably tired of all its bullshit. Famous people from Colchester include the turns-out-not-as-Irish-as-you’d-have-thought television presenter Dermot O’Leary, your mum’s favourite Darren Day, and the satirist  and comedian Chris Morris, who The Daily Mail once described as ‘the most loathed man on TV’. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.

How to blend in

Always split the bill, and make wild claims about your life and maintain them despite all evidence to the contrary. Tell people your mum was in Bananarama, and that your dad is in the SAS and once killed three terrorists with a single punch, but don’t ask him about it because he’ll deny it because they have to. And your uncle once clean-bowled Viv Richards, and the really cool thing his he wasn’t even supposed to be playing, he was just sat in the stands and they asked him to come on and play because someone else got injured, and so he bowled him wearing jeans. And your sister is a famous YouTuber, but we wouldn’t have heard of her because she’s really cool and underground, and she’s only famous on the dark web, and in Japan, where she’s on cereal boxes. 

What’s the stadium like?

Situated in a lay-by on the A12, the Colchester Community Stadium is part football ground, part Welcome Break that got out of hand. Such is its proximity to the dual carriageway that if you look closely on a matchday you’ll see that much of the crowd is actually made up of confused pensioners who’d just stopped off for a wee on the way to their sister-in-law’s static caravan in Clacton. 

Colcheter United moved here in 2008; exchanging their atmospheric but cramped Layer Road ground for soulless out-of-a-box modernity in an empty hinterland between Colchester and, well, not Colchester. Not that the stadium’s location should be any hindrance to you having a proper old school away day experience. No sir. If you’re fond of going for a social pre-match pint or three outside the ground, then you can do just that at the, er, David Lloyd Health Club, and then after that you can grab a quick bite to eat over at the… well… yeah, the David Lloyd Health Club… before sneaking in another swift one before kick-off at the… yeah, yeah, you’ve guessed where we’re going with this. Modernisation eh?

Anyway, yeah, it’s basically four stands of blue seats and according to Wikipedia ‘the South Stand houses Colchester United’s vocal supporters,’ presumably those in the other stands don’t like people to know what they get up to of a Saturday afternoon.

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