Monkwick Fun Day to take place 4th June 2016

Monkwick Fun Day

Following on from the successful Monkwick Fun Day in 2015, the 2016 date has now been decided as 4th June 2016.

Hundreds of people turned up last year for the community day, which saw local stalls, a disco, bouncy castles, free hotdogs and local organisations including 5th Colchester Scout Group, the Youth Bus and the Sure Foundation church group.

This year’s Monkwick Fun Day will be held on 4th June 2016 at the playing field next to TLA school and will start at midday. It finishes at 4pm. Anyone interested in representing their local community group or holding a stall can contact Cllr Dave Harris for more information – 01206 545889.


Essex and Herts Air Ambulance takes off from Blackheath, Colchester (HD)

Following on from my previous post about a spectacular helicopter crash in New Zealand, I was reminded of some HD footage I captured of the Essex and Hertfordshire Air Ambulance when in landed in a play park a few meters from my house a couple of years ago at Blackheath, Colchester.

Having a chat with the piolet prior to take-off, he promised a perfect pirouette when he left – and he did just that.

Notice that the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance helicopter as no tail rotor like conventional helicopters. Instead, this design known as NOTAR uses a high-powered fan to force air over the tail creating stability and thrust. Very cool…

Watch the full video here


Stanway Colchester: More homes as Lib Dems score own-goal on Tollgate Retail Park decision

Stanway Colchester

Every week for the past 5 years I’ve seen changes at Stanway Colchester. It seems more houses are popping up on almost a weekly basis. The Stanway Western bypass may have been welcome relief to the people of Blackberry Road and Warren Lane, but the Borough Council seem ignorant to the increased needs of the growing population as they rejected the new Tollgate development out-of-hand. This at a time when more homes are being built, the population of the Town is increasing and more jobs are desperately needed.

So why was the Tollgate development rejected? It seems we have to turn to the Colchester Liberal Democrats for the answer, and it’s a sad answer at that. In a statement on their website, the Lib Dem party said that “the site is strategic employment land” for uses like “research and development, studios, laboratories, high-tech, offices and distribution”.

The page went on to say that “such businesses seek land with good access to the strategic highway network. Tollgate, being close to Junction 26 of the A12, with excellent access to ports, is ideal. Such land is scarce and, once developed for other uses, is lost. Local people in search of opportunities will be forced to travel or even move away permanently“.

If that’s the case, why do so many of the buildings already built at Tollgate Business Park remain empty over two years since being built?

Why the Liberal Democrats got it wrong

Firstly, they’ve failed to recognise that retail also brings employment to Colchester. According to the February 2016 report by the Office for National Statistics, around 16% of people Nationally are employed in the retail sector. That’s nothing to be sniffed at. It increases spending input to the local economy and secures jobs.

Secondly, it increases competition which is good for the consumer and boosts spending. Currently the only supermarket in the Tollgate area is Sainsbury’s. Where’s the competition?

Thirdly, do laboratories and R&D companies look at West Colchester as a true business hub? There’s no direct railway line to the Tollgate area and carparking is scarce; which is why some larger insurers decided to move out of the town a few years ago.

Finally, and most importantly, they failed to listen to the voices of the people of Colchester. Immediately following the decision an online petition was started by Colchestrians unhappy with the decision. Perhaps not a great decision made by the Lib Dems with elections looming.


Another decision made in the war with the Conservatives

Immediately after the planning was refused by CBC, Tory MP Priti Patel launched a scathing attack against the decision, saying that she was “appalled”. Now I’m definitely not a supporter of the Conservatives but it’s fair ro say I’m 100% her in this regard. Building more offices to sit empty whilst refusing decent retails premises is extremely short-sighted and unlikely to result in a decent number of jobs for the local economy.

I also found it slightly amusing that on the Lib Dem article relating to the planning application they had a picture of David Cameron with the message “I’d govern like a true Tory is it wasn’t for the Lib Dems”; I think someone needs to tell them that they suffered a terrible defeat to just that person not so long ago…


Extract for the Colchester Lib Dem website
Panoramic view of Tollgate, Stanway, Colchester
Panoramic view of Tollgate, Stanway, Colchester

1805 map of Colchester Town shows huge changes in 200 years

1805 map of Colchester
An original 1805 map of Colchester with 2016 points of interest added

I discovered a 1805 map of Colchester recently which shows the huge changes since 1805. Original drawn by J. Britton, the map shows that Colchester really was just a small town surrounded by fields in all directions and the river Colne to the North and East.

I’ve taken the map and added some modern-day landmarks to give you an idea of what modern buildings have replaced fields, graveyards and roads. I took some time to study the map and compare it a modern equivalent. It’s not accurate as the 1805 map of Colchester isn’t to scale (although it was a really good effort considering it was all done from ground level)!

Your best way to view the map would be to download the image and then open it on your computer, zooming into the areas marked. It’s amazing how much countryside there was directly around the town centre.

Feel free to reproduce this map but please credit me (Ritchie Hicks). Even better would be a link to this page. I recommend that you print it on A3 if possible as the original writing on the map is hard to decipher in places.

Teachers or historians can download a free A4 or A3 pdf file of the map and key (see attachments below) which can be printed to use in classes.


A: St John’s Green Primary School (Town site), which was just a field at the time. The now Grade II listed building was built in 1898 by Goodey and Cressall

B: A windmill was sited approximately where the ‘Wok Inn’ Chinese food restaurant is now located, but between Camp Folly North and Sergeant Street. Unsurprising given its locale to farmland and a main route into the town from Mersea Island

C: Approximate location of Southway (A134). It would be some 150 years before Southway would be built.

D: Military Road was called Hog Lane.

E: The area now referred to as New Town

F: The original location of the Army Barracks was in the Morant Road, Artillary Street, Victor Road area of Colchester between Wimpole Road and Port Lane.  It would later be relocated to Mersea Road and then moved again in 2005/6 to various areas of MoD land on the South side of the town.

G: The Hythe waterfront was just a number of small houses and outbuilding along the edge of the river. We can’t see past this point ot he East but can see from the map that the area past here was referred to the Parish of Greenstead.

H: Hythe Train Station

I: Greenstead Road (unamed on the map). This was the main route from Colchester Town to Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea

J: This area was once some type of public gardens as shown on the map. It now has the railway line for the Wivenhoe and Hythe, and Colchester Town running through it, and makes up Moorside industrial estate.

K: Rollerworld

L: St James Primary School

M: Charter Hall (with Ten Pin and Leisureworld next door)

N: The Octagon office buildings (I’m not sure if that’s what it’s still called but it’s a name I know it by)

O: St Mary’s carpark

P: The Mercury Theatre

Q: Colchester Arts Centre, formally St. Mary’s Church

R: Essex (Colchester) Police


James Stanley Hicks (‘Stan’)

James Stanley Hicks (‘Stan’) was born in North Birmingham in August 1924.

Sgt. James Stanley Hicks served in the British Army Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was a prisoner of war sometime between 1939-1945 in Stalag IV-A. He was a Private at the time. He was wounded in battle (shot in the upper arm) and was told he would need the arm amputated, but it was saved. When he returned from the POW camp he was very thin and could barely eat for weeks. He hated the smell of oranges due to a battle in an orange grove in North Africa where people lay dying around him.

He would also tell me the story of the first German soilder that he shot – a young man around 18 years old – who grasped a photo of his mother as he died in my Grandfathers arms mumbling “mutter, mutter”. He would later be awarded the Africa Star for his service.

Stanley would spend the rest of his life living in Colchester, Essex. He had various jobs, including one as a sales rep for Schweppes. He was also a staunch local Labour party member and works convener. Stand died late 2004 at Colchester General Hospital after a short battle with pneumonia.


Another crash on Mersea Road by Cheerytree School: it’s time the speed limit was reduced

As I saw another accident on Mersea Road this morning, right outside Cheerytree School, it reinforced the need for what I believe should be a reduced speed limit in the area.

The 30mph turns to a 40mph just past the entrance to Holt Drive. This means that drivers leaving Colchester towards Mersea are already accelerating for the 40mph limit by the time they reach the junction. It also means that vehicles entering the 30mph are often still speeding when they do. Just stand at the junction for 10 minutes and you’ll easily see it for yourself. I’ve also seen the School Crossing Patrol receive abuse from drivers whilst helping children cross the road.

I asked Essex County to look at the speed limit in the area in 2012, but sadly got the standard response from them. It all comes down to money.

With regards to the existing speed limit Essex County Council is currently conducting a speed limit review on all Priority 1+2 routes (County Routes) and once completed will be reviewing the speed limits of those C and unclassified roads (lower tier) that have the highest risk of collisions (expected to be complete April 2012).

Essex County Highways – 15/02/2012

Nothing was done about the speed limit, despite it being less than 50 metres from a school. It seems money is more important than safety.




Cherrytree Neighbourhood Watch relaunched thanks to local Labour Team

The Neighbourhood Watch scheme in the Cherrytree area of Colchester has been relaunched thanks to the local Labour team.

Every address in the Holt Drive, Nathan Court, Cheerytree Lane and Roman Hill areas were approached and residents asked for their support. The response was hugely in favour of restarting the scheme which aims to:

  • alert residents of potential thieves in the area
  • encourage residents to postcode their property
  • support residents to take additional methods to make it harder for a thief to break in

There will be a Watch Coordinator and other activities. Volunteers will be needed.

Anyone with interest in the scheme is invited to a meeting at The Community Road, Sexton Close on 25th January 2016 at 7pm.

For more information on the local Labour Team and what they do, visit


Things you (probably) didn’t know about Colchester

Blur hail from Colchester

Some members of the rock band Blur hail from Colchester. Band members including Damon Albarn and Dave Rowntree lived and were raised in Colchester. Graham Coxon would later move to the town and meet Albarn at secondary school; and Blur would be born.


Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher worked in Colchester as a research chemist from 1947 to 1951, before beginning her career as a politician. She worked as a chemist for BX Plastics which was based in Manningtree at the time.


The Romans

Colchester was chosen by the Roman’s as the base for their very first English legionary fortress. You can still see some of the original walls in various locations around the town.



In 1884, Colchester was hit by an earthquake which measured 4.7 in the Richter Scale. Some houses in the Dutch Quarter and New Town areas still display visible damage.


St Helena

St Helena (or St Helen, consort of the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus and the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great) is the patron Saint of Colchester. She was born c.246 AD.


Humpty Dumpty

The poem ‘Humpty Dumpty’ is said to have originated in Colchester after a powerful cannon, used during the English Civil War, fell from a church tower and was damaged. There are other ideas of the origin, but an Colcestrian will tell you it originated there.