Colchester Songs of Praise


Colchester

Pam Rhodes discovers how the Essex town of Colchester is facing a high-tech future. Plus hymns both ancient and modern, and a performance from opera star Noah Stewart.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to Colchester. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

This is a town that embraces the very ancient and the very modern.

0:00:150:00:21

These Roman town walls are the oldest in Britain,

0:00:210:00:24

built nearly 50 years before Hadrian's Wall,

0:00:240:00:26

and they enclosed the oldest recorded town in the country.

0:00:260:00:30

And yet 2,000 years on, this is still a city of firsts,

0:00:300:00:35

so, welcome to Camulodunum, better known to us as Colchester.

0:00:350:00:38

I'll be taking a tour of unusual places of worship,

0:00:460:00:48

and I'll be finding out about Colchester's high-tech ambitions

0:00:480:00:53

to become the country's first high-speed internet town.

0:00:530:00:56

We sing hymns, old and new,

0:00:560:00:58

and opera star Noah Stewart performs for us.

0:00:580:01:01

Everywhere you walk in Colchester,

0:01:200:01:21

you get the feeling that beneath your feet

0:01:210:01:24

there is layer upon layer of history.

0:01:240:01:27

Take this castle, for instance,

0:01:270:01:29

built around 1076 by William the Conqueror,

0:01:290:01:32

but it stands on top of the remains of the Roman temple of Claudius.

0:01:320:01:37

They say that if you spread your hands on the stonework

0:01:370:01:40

of the temple, you are touching the foundations of the Roman Empire.

0:01:400:01:46

Many of the bricks from Roman buildings were later reused

0:01:460:01:50

to build other important places like this one, St Botolph's,

0:01:500:01:54

which dates back to the 11th century

0:01:540:01:56

when it was one of the earliest Augustinian priories in England.

0:01:560:02:00

So, recycling is hundreds of years old here in Colchester.

0:02:000:02:05

And just at the back there, where the monastery kitchens used to be,

0:02:050:02:08

stands the present St Botolph's,

0:02:080:02:11

and it's there that congregations from all over the town

0:02:110:02:14

have gathered to sing their hymns, ancient and modern.

0:02:140:02:18

There's a long history of Christianity in Colchester,

0:04:250:04:29

and evidence of belief dating back to Roman times.

0:04:290:04:32

I've met up with local historian Andrew Phillips,

0:04:320:04:36

who's promised to show me

0:04:360:04:38

some of the town's most intriguing religious sites.

0:04:380:04:41

And this is probably the oldest Christian church

0:04:410:04:44

visible in Britain today.

0:04:440:04:46

What? Right next door to the police station?

0:04:460:04:49

On a busy roundabout? What did they actually discover here?

0:04:490:04:52

We have to thank our archaeologists, really,

0:04:520:04:55

because we are sitting here

0:04:550:04:56

at the very beginning of Christianity in Britain.

0:04:560:04:59

Because this is a Roman Church.

0:04:590:05:02

How do you know that it was Christian?

0:05:020:05:04

Well, all the way round here was a cemetery,

0:05:040:05:06

and we know this is a Christian church

0:05:060:05:09

because all the early burials are buried north-south,

0:05:090:05:12

and then suddenly they start burying them east-west.

0:05:120:05:16

And that is a sure sign that they are Christian.

0:05:160:05:18

They are buried in wooden coffins lying facing east

0:05:180:05:22

so that they are there for the Day of Resurrection.

0:05:220:05:25

And they arise.

0:05:250:05:26

And the key thing is this - inside the coffins there are no grave goods.

0:05:260:05:31

Because a Christian doesn't need to take anything with them.

0:05:310:05:35

Well, look, will you take me with you and show me

0:05:350:05:37

some other old churches around Colchester?

0:05:370:05:40

I tell you what, you've heard of a pub crawl,

0:05:400:05:42

-we're going on a church crawl.

-Sounds good to me.

0:05:420:05:45

-This looks really impressive.

-Well, yes, indeed.

0:05:540:05:57

This is only the gatehouse of the great St John's Abbey,

0:05:570:06:00

which lay behind us in mediaeval times.

0:06:000:06:03

One of the last abbeys to be seized by Henry VIII

0:06:030:06:06

when he took over the monasteries.

0:06:060:06:08

So what would it have looked like in its heyday?

0:06:080:06:11

Well, in its heyday it was a vast community.

0:06:110:06:13

It was a power standing on this hill, facing Colchester,

0:06:130:06:17

on the hill over there.

0:06:170:06:19

It was a hostelry for travelling VIPs, it was a hospital,

0:06:190:06:23

it was a vast institution in its day.

0:06:230:06:26

And of course the loss of it to Colchester was very severe.

0:06:260:06:29

So what happened to it?

0:06:290:06:30

Well, in the end, it was seized by Henry VIII,

0:06:300:06:33

when he seized the monasteries. One of the last he got his hands on,

0:06:330:06:36

because the Abbot refused to hand it over.

0:06:360:06:39

You're not going to tell me that this is a church?

0:06:460:06:49

Well, it is, actually, yes.

0:06:490:06:50

It's the garrison church that was,

0:06:500:06:53

because Colchester is Britain's oldest garrison town.

0:06:530:06:56

So how old is this?

0:06:560:06:57

Well, this was put up in the time of the Crimean War, and it was actually

0:06:570:07:02

made by the same company which made Florence Nightingale's hospitals.

0:07:020:07:06

It's a prefabricated building.

0:07:060:07:09

I can't believe it's so enormous, and it's made of wood.

0:07:090:07:12

Indeed it is, and it's probably the biggest wooden church

0:07:120:07:15

in the whole of England.

0:07:150:07:17

But that's not all. The biggest surprise is inside.

0:07:170:07:20

Wow!

0:07:250:07:28

Yes, it's a Russian Orthodox Church today.

0:07:280:07:31

Beautifully laid out, as you see, and happily, three years ago,

0:07:310:07:36

the Russian Orthodox community moved in here,

0:07:360:07:39

so we have a living Christian community

0:07:390:07:41

making use of this church once again.

0:07:410:07:44

Well, when it comes to unusual churches,

0:07:440:07:46

Colchester takes the biscuit.

0:07:460:07:48

We haven't quite done yet. Come with me.

0:07:480:07:51

You don't expect to see a church

0:07:590:08:01

-right in the middle of a shopping centre, do you?

-Well, no.

0:08:010:08:04

But it's not a church. It's actually only a spire.

0:08:040:08:06

So where's the church, then?

0:08:060:08:08

Well, the church went when we built the shopping precinct,

0:08:080:08:11

because when the shopping precinct was built, we put the new church in,

0:08:110:08:15

and there it is up above, and down below there are shops.

0:08:150:08:20

-Worship above, and retail therapy below.

-I'm glad they kept that spire.

0:08:200:08:24

Indeed.

0:08:240:08:25

And it stands as a memorial, really,

0:08:250:08:27

to 2,000 years of Christian worship in this town.

0:08:270:08:32

Colchester boasts many historical firsts.

0:10:510:10:54

It was here, back in the 16th century,

0:10:540:10:56

that Queen Elizabeth's physician, William Gilbert,

0:10:560:10:59

first coined the word electricity.

0:10:590:11:01

Since then, technology has come a long way,

0:11:010:11:04

and Colchester remains at the cutting edge.

0:11:040:11:06

It's hoping to become Britain's first high-speed

0:11:060:11:09

wireless broadband town.

0:11:090:11:11

Michael Snaith has been involved in the scheme

0:11:110:11:14

aimed at making it happen.

0:11:140:11:16

I would have thought that towns as big as Colchester

0:11:160:11:19

would have high-speed broadband already -

0:11:190:11:21

is that not so here?

0:11:210:11:22

There are areas of Colchester where super-fast broadband already exists,

0:11:220:11:26

but people forget that in Colchester,

0:11:260:11:28

two-thirds of the borough of Colchester is rural.

0:11:280:11:30

And so, it's very much a case of actually

0:11:300:11:33

enabling the rural parts of the borough of Colchester

0:11:330:11:36

to be included in this new digital age.

0:11:360:11:39

How could you get that service to those outlying areas?

0:11:390:11:43

Well, if we're looking at actually using wireless

0:11:430:11:46

to link up with villages in rural areas,

0:11:460:11:48

what we do need in those communities is high points.

0:11:480:11:51

-And the highest building in most villages is...

-BOTH: The church.

0:11:510:11:55

Coggeshall Church on the outskirts of Colchester

0:11:580:12:01

is piloting the project.

0:12:010:12:03

The vicar here is keen to enable the rural community

0:12:030:12:06

to get hooked up to the World Wide Web,

0:12:060:12:08

and it's certainly a talking point.

0:12:080:12:10

One question that's going to come up is, "What's it going to look like?"

0:12:100:12:15

We've got these fantastic historic buildings.

0:12:150:12:17

Is it going to fit in? Is it going to spoil the look of the building?

0:12:170:12:20

This is the design that we've actually put on the church itself.

0:12:200:12:24

It's designed to be sympathetic with the building.

0:12:240:12:27

If you'd like to have a look.

0:12:270:12:29

I think the key aspect is, actually the pilot started three months ago.

0:12:290:12:32

And how many comments have you had about it?

0:12:320:12:34

Nobody seems to have noticed the aerials are even there,

0:12:340:12:37

so that really sells a story of its own.

0:12:370:12:39

There will be people who think that the church should get on with

0:12:390:12:42

its age-old "proper job" of spreading the gospel,

0:12:420:12:45

and leave these newfangled projects to other people.

0:12:450:12:48

Well, I think the church and Christians down the generations,

0:12:480:12:51

since the invention of the printing press and before,

0:12:510:12:54

have used the latest technology for the spread of the gospel.

0:12:540:12:58

But, actually, this isn't so much about that,

0:12:580:13:01

this is the life that the church has in its abundance,

0:13:010:13:04

sharing something for the local community that it serves.

0:13:040:13:08

The church doesn't exist for itself. Never has.

0:13:080:13:11

And the church is there to serve the local community,

0:13:110:13:14

and I believe that's something very much part of the gospel for us

0:13:140:13:17

to contribute to, today.

0:13:170:13:19

So, what are the benefits?

0:13:190:13:21

The benefits for the wider community are huge,

0:13:210:13:24

because, of course, those rural communities beyond Coggeshall

0:13:240:13:28

who have very low broadband speeds really can't access so many things,

0:13:280:13:34

from simple things like paying their bills online,

0:13:340:13:36

doing internet banking,

0:13:360:13:38

to more serious things like getting their prescriptions downloaded

0:13:380:13:41

from the doctor, those kinds of things.

0:13:410:13:43

The church also gains from having super-fast internet access.

0:13:430:13:49

Enid Bardrick is the baptism administrator,

0:13:490:13:52

and her job means she's on the computer every day.

0:13:520:13:54

We have about 40 baptisms a year.

0:13:560:13:58

So it's pretty busy, isn't it?

0:13:580:13:59

And very difficult to do without the internet.

0:13:590:14:02

Well, for me, it would be impossible,

0:14:020:14:04

because I have decreasing mobility.

0:14:040:14:07

I can't do many of the functions that I used to do.

0:14:070:14:11

I can now really only do things from home, or from a sedentary position.

0:14:110:14:16

Do you use the internet a lot at home, then?

0:14:160:14:18

I do indeed, because I do all my shopping, all my food shopping.

0:14:180:14:23

I'd starve without the internet.

0:14:230:14:26

I do all my clothes shopping,

0:14:260:14:28

I get my repeat prescriptions by logging on to the special website,

0:14:280:14:34

and I also keep in contact with people,

0:14:340:14:36

because I've lived abroad a lot,

0:14:360:14:38

and I keep in contact with friends I've made worldwide,

0:14:380:14:42

through the internet.

0:14:420:14:43

What would you say to people who feel they are too long in the tooth

0:14:430:14:47

to learn new skills like computers?

0:14:470:14:49

Well, you've just got to try and do it,

0:14:490:14:51

if you want to really be progressive,

0:14:510:14:54

and I think they mustn't be overawed by all the people who,

0:14:540:14:58

the nerds, the people who use all these complicated whiz words.

0:14:580:15:03

I do get very frustrated with it, from time to time,

0:15:030:15:06

but you get there in the end.

0:15:060:15:08

Colchester's newest building is where 21st-century architecture

0:17:120:17:16

meets fourth-century archaeology.

0:17:160:17:19

First Site is a contemporary art centre which has been

0:17:190:17:22

built on top of an ancient Roman site.

0:17:220:17:24

It floats on a concrete plate to preserve the history beneath it.

0:17:240:17:30

First Site directly refers to Colchester's status

0:17:300:17:33

as Britain's first Roman city,

0:17:330:17:35

but it also reminds us that we are here

0:17:350:17:37

to give first site to new ideas, and new art from all over the world.

0:17:370:17:41

The centrepiece of this new building is a mosaic

0:17:410:17:45

unearthed in the 1920s.

0:17:450:17:47

It was the dining-room floor of a Roman townhouse.

0:17:470:17:51

Well, today we have a snapshot of what we do,

0:17:510:17:54

so we've got drop-in activities for families for all ages,

0:17:540:17:58

where they can come and enjoy the mosaic,

0:17:580:18:00

but also make some art of their own.

0:18:000:18:01

And we've got an older group of people

0:18:010:18:03

working with one of our associate artists, Jevan Watkins Jones,

0:18:030:18:07

who are making art with him together in the learning space.

0:18:070:18:10

What I'm hoping is that within the activities

0:18:150:18:17

you find something you like.

0:18:170:18:19

There might be one that you really get into, and identify with,

0:18:190:18:23

and, hopefully,

0:18:230:18:24

you'll leave with something that feels a little bit new.

0:18:240:18:28

So, we'll be doing things like breathing on glass,

0:18:280:18:32

and experiencing our own breath,

0:18:320:18:35

and the visual effect of our own breath on the mirror, in actual fact.

0:18:350:18:40

I love the way it sort of shrinks back, the way it evaporates,

0:18:400:18:44

disintegrates, it's beautiful.

0:18:440:18:46

I feel my faith comes into it when I get excited about what I'm doing,

0:18:460:18:51

and when I feel there is a genuine connection

0:18:510:18:53

happening with those that I'm working with.

0:18:530:18:56

Just as your own handwriting is intrinsically unique,

0:18:570:19:01

so is your mark, when you're drawing, intrinsically unique.

0:19:010:19:06

There's a lot of good work being done here.

0:19:060:19:09

The joy of the Lord is my strength,

0:19:090:19:12

and I just have to tell myself that every day,

0:19:120:19:14

I think it's all about pursuing that joy,

0:19:140:19:16

and obviously, creativity is where I access that, and tap into that.

0:19:160:19:21

I'm a very young Christian and therefore it's a new walk for me

0:19:290:19:34

in terms of reconciling my ways of making art with what that output is.

0:19:340:19:40

So the images that I create...

0:19:400:19:42

I make work which is very representational, very figurative,

0:19:420:19:45

which tends to be drawing in the landscape, with people in it,

0:19:450:19:50

but I also work quite abstractly with objects,

0:19:500:19:53

and things which have a symbolic value.

0:19:530:19:56

So now for me, in reading the Word a lot more,

0:19:560:20:01

I'm finding ways of bringing my living faith into those images.

0:20:010:20:04

I draw inspiration fundamentally from the natural world,

0:20:100:20:16

you know, which He has created.

0:20:160:20:18

And that's what I desire to tap into,

0:20:210:20:24

that sort of natural order, that life force, which comes from God.

0:20:240:20:31

# I'll walk with God

0:20:340:20:38

# From this day on

0:20:380:20:42

# His helping hand I'll lean upon

0:20:430:20:51

# This is my prayer

0:20:510:20:56

# My humble plea

0:20:560:21:01

# May the Lord be ever with me

0:21:010:21:09

# There is no death

0:21:120:21:17

# Though eyes grow dim

0:21:170:21:21

# There is no fear

0:21:210:21:25

# When I'm near to Him

0:21:250:21:31

# I'll lean on Him forever

0:21:320:21:40

# And He'll forsake me never

0:21:400:21:48

# He will not fail me

0:21:510:21:56

# As long as my faith is strong

0:21:560:22:02

# Whatever road I may walk along

0:22:020:22:14

# I'll walk with God

0:22:140:22:18

# I'll take His hand

0:22:180:22:24

# I'll talk with God

0:22:240:22:28

# He'll understand

0:22:280:22:33

# I'll pray to Him

0:22:330:22:37

# Each day to Him

0:22:370:22:40

# And He'll hear the words

0:22:400:22:45

# That I say

0:22:450:22:50

# His hand will guide

0:22:500:22:54

# My throne and rod

0:22:540:22:58

# And I'll never walk alone

0:22:590:23:04

# While I walk with God. #

0:23:040:23:17

The Romans said the only good thing to come out of Britain

0:23:250:23:28

were Colchester oysters.

0:23:280:23:30

The town has been famous for them ever since,

0:23:300:23:33

and celebrates with an Oyster Feast which dates back to 1318.

0:23:330:23:37

The oysters are grown just south of Colchester on the Essex coast.

0:23:410:23:47

For centuries, the Hawards

0:23:470:23:49

have been harvesting them here on Mersea Island.

0:23:490:23:52

My family's been

0:23:520:23:54

growing oysters here since the mid 18th century.

0:23:540:23:57

And, we've got evidence that my however many times grandfather, it was, in 1792,

0:23:580:24:03

actually sailed to Billingsgate Market to deliver oysters.

0:24:030:24:07

And every generation since then has been involved in it.

0:24:070:24:11

The boats were sailing boats, and everything was done by manual labour,

0:24:110:24:14

hand-hauling the dredgers, and that.

0:24:140:24:17

Nowadays it is made easier by modern aids

0:24:170:24:20

such as diesel engines and hydraulic winches and that,

0:24:200:24:23

but the method is still the same.

0:24:230:24:25

Every day, you're dealing with the natural world,

0:24:250:24:28

which is ever-changing, and has changed over time.

0:24:280:24:32

You've got to have a belief that this comes from somewhere,

0:24:320:24:35

and where else can it have come from but God, a supreme being?

0:24:350:24:42

Richard supplies oysters all over the country,

0:24:490:24:51

but some are served up by his wife Heather

0:24:510:24:55

at the family's quayside cafe, known as The Shed.

0:24:550:24:59

Originally The Shed was a purification plant for the oysters.

0:24:590:25:03

Richard bought The Shed several years ago

0:25:030:25:06

and had this bright idea that I would like to run it,

0:25:060:25:08

and sell fish and stuff.

0:25:080:25:09

There was one window that opened onto the road, and I just had this...

0:25:090:25:13

You know, we'd sell stuff out the window,

0:25:130:25:15

shrimps and cockles and stuff like that.

0:25:150:25:17

People started coming then, word-of-mouth,

0:25:170:25:20

then it got a bit bigger, and it's busy practically all the time now.

0:25:200:25:24

It's rough and ready, and I think a lot of people like that. They don't like to

0:25:240:25:27

come in and you're fussing round them, putting napkins on their lap.

0:25:270:25:31

And plus, I've always allowed people to bring their own bread,

0:25:310:25:34

and their own wine, which they have done, for years.

0:25:340:25:38

For Heather, The Shed is a way of putting her faith into practice.

0:25:380:25:42

Because we get so full up,

0:25:420:25:44

I'll just put total strangers on the same table.

0:25:440:25:47

And being a bit British they are like, I could see, "Ooh"

0:25:470:25:51

but within five or ten minutes,

0:25:510:25:52

you have two couples sitting at the table sharing their bread,

0:25:520:25:56

sharing their drink, and they're all making friends.

0:25:560:25:58

I always think they are sort of my fellowship, in a way.

0:25:580:26:02

In this church is a very nice stained-glass window.

0:26:040:26:08

Somebody had this idea of doing a stained-glass window

0:26:080:26:12

more or less dedicated to the fish and the oysters.

0:26:120:26:15

Two or three people came up with designs, and they chose this one.

0:26:150:26:19

They started a fund, raising money and that.

0:26:190:26:22

And I said, "Well, for every oyster I sell, I'll put a penny in a pot."

0:26:220:26:25

So, I did things like that.

0:26:250:26:27

In the end Richard said, "I'll tell you how many oysters you've had

0:26:270:26:30

"rather than you keep putting a penny in."

0:26:300:26:32

And a lot of different people give donations.

0:26:320:26:34

Every time I look at it I think it's so good. Just such a...

0:26:340:26:38

You know, and when the sun is behind it, it's brilliant.

0:26:380:26:41

And the church, and the oysters, and the fishing

0:26:410:26:43

are all long-term parts of the community here.

0:26:430:26:48

'Heavenly Father, ever constant,

0:28:390:28:42

'as each generation is blessed by your love and compassion...'

0:28:420:28:46

'Help us to make the most of the present, and appreciate

0:28:460:28:49

'the beauty of the world around us, and the fruits of your creation.'

0:28:490:28:55

'May we today plant seeds of hope and harmony,

0:28:550:28:58

'which will bring fulfilment and peace to those who follow us.'

0:28:580:29:03

'Loving God, as we go our separate ways,'

0:29:030:29:06

help us to see the world through your eyes,

0:29:060:29:09

to share and celebrate our gifts,

0:29:090:29:10

to work together for change and to care for our communities.

0:29:100:29:16

And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son,

0:29:160:29:20

and the Holy Spirit, be with you this day and for ever more.

0:29:200:29:25

ALL: Amen.

0:29:250:29:27

# Risen Lord, Risen Lord

0:29:300:29:34

# Give us a heart for simple things

0:29:340:29:38

# Love, laughter Bread, wine, and dreams

0:29:380:29:42

# Fill us with green growing hope

0:29:420:29:45

# Risen Lord, Risen Lord

0:29:450:29:50

# Make us a people whose song is Alleluia

0:29:500:29:54

# Whose sign is peace and whose name is love

0:29:540:29:59

# Risen Lord, Risen Lord

0:29:590:30:04

# Give us a heart for simple things

0:30:040:30:07

# And to sing Alleluia...

0:30:070:30:11

# And to sing Alleluia

0:30:110:30:15

-# Risen Lord, Risen Lord

-Aaaah-ah-ah-ah

0:30:150:30:20

-# Give us a heart for simple things

-Ah-ah

0:30:200:30:23

-# Love, laughter Bread, wine, and dreams

-Aaah-ah-ah

0:30:230:30:28

-# Fill us with green growing hope

-Ah-ah-ah

0:30:280:30:31

-# Risen Lord, Risen Lord

-Ah-ah

0:30:310:30:36

# Make us a people whose song is Alleluia

0:30:360:30:40

-# Whose sign is peace

-Ah-ah-ah

0:30:400:30:43

-# And whose name is love

-Ah-ah-ah-ah

0:30:430:30:46

-# Risen Lord, Risen Lord

-Ah-ah-aaaah ah-ah

0:30:460:30:50

-# Give us a heart for simple things

-Ah-ah-ah

0:30:500:30:54

# And to sing Alleluia

0:30:540:30:58

# And to sing Alleluia. #

0:30:580:31:04

Well, as we sing praise here this evening,

0:31:070:31:09

it is reassuring to think that there has been Christian worship

0:31:090:31:13

in this town since Roman times, 2,000 years ago.

0:31:130:31:16

Which means that our last hymn this evening is a relative youngster -

0:31:160:31:20

only 250 years old.

0:31:200:31:22

But it does come from the pen of Charles Wesley,

0:31:220:31:24

so from all of us here in Colchester tonight,

0:31:240:31:27

it's goodbye with Ye Servants Of God.

0:31:270:31:30

Next week, Aled meets some of today's gifted hymn writers.

0:33:260:33:29

They reveal what inspires them to compose the wonderful hymns

0:33:290:33:34

that are already becoming classics for congregations around the world.

0:33:340:33:38

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:33:540:33:57

Email [email protected]

0:33:570:34:00

Pam Rhodes discovers how the Essex town of Colchester, steeped in Roman history, is facing a high-tech future. Plus hymns both ancient and modern, and a performance from new opera star Noah Stewart.


Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS