Column: Annabell Cannings has lived in Colchester nearly all her life and has a history degree from Bath Spa University. She has a passion for history and exploring its hidden treasures. Here she reveals a special and unexpected story about Colchester Castle.

AFTER watching almost everything Netflix has to offer, I came across a gem of a documentary one evening.

At least a day’s worth of watching, surely, I thought.

The ‘Secrets of Great British Castles’, with Dan Jones, was informative and entertaining, to say the least.

As I got stuck in, the second episode of the first series did not disappoint.

It was about the Tower of London and its gruesome secrets, which, I have to say, is one of my favourite castles.

Its gory history and ominous legends drew me in completely.

The episode took an unexpected direction and my ears pricked at the words ‘Colchester Castle’.

What was revealed was a fantastic story and an unexpected twist.

William the Conqueror, notorious for his castle building, instructed Gundulf of Rochester to design and oversee the building of the Tower of London and Colchester Castle.

It wouldn't be bold to suggest these two castles are twinned with each other.

If we look at Gundulf’s other architectural constructions, it's these two castles which are the most alike.

Just like Colchester Castle, the Tower of London was built on Roman ruins.

Colchester Castle, likely the first Norman castle built in Britain, was closely followed by the Tower of London.

Annabell Cummings

Looking back in time - Annabell Cannings

We could consider Colchester Castle as the blueprint for the Tower of London.

If you look at the plans for both, the similarity is striking, almost exact.

This is not all the story of these castles has to reveal.

While interviewing a castle historian, my attention peaked again.

The unexpected twist I mentioned earlier.

JRR Tolkein, famous, of course, for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, is the subject of this plot twist.

Though he is remembered for these epic stories, he was actually a Professor of Anglo-Saxon History at Oxford.

As history tells us, William the Conqueror ended the Anglo-Saxon rule of Britain.

So we see the connection forming.

It is said that when writing his second book ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ he based the two towers in the story on the Tower of London and Colchester Castle.

The Tower of London being Orthanc (the ‘White Tower’) and Colchester Castle, unfortunately, taking the role of Barad Dúr (the ‘Dark Tower’).

Furthermore, he names his grey, grumbling wizard, a hero of the films and my favourite character ‘Gandalf’, which is, we would imagine, taken from Gundolf, the architect of the two castles.

Standing for nearly a thousand years, Colchester Castle is still surprising us to this day.