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by Frank Black

Castle Road and Roman Road were developed on land which had previously been the site of the Botanic and Horticultural Gardens and prior to that the land had been the site of the church of the Grey Friars monastery. Gardens of this sort, where entrance was restricted to subscribers and shareholders, were fashionable in the late Georgian period and similar but larger gardens were established in Manchester (1831), Birmingham (1832) and Sheffield (1836). The botanic garden had been opened in 1823 by the Colchester & Essex Botanical and Horticultural Society on 8½ acres behind Greyfriars House . By the middle of the century there may have been too few subscribers to make the venture viable because on 24th January 1851 the site of the gardens, divided into 26 lots, was advertised for sale by auction on 11th February 1851. However, a week before the auction was due to be held the whole estate was sold by private contract to the National Freehold Land Society, later to become the Abbey National Building Society.

On the 27th May 1851 a day of events took place "in celebration of the breaking up of the Botanic Garden". The day started with a balloon ascent by the famous, veteran aeronaut Charles Green (1785-1870) who by 1851 was making his 510th ascent and who retired the following year. His balloon had many names over the years but at this time was called the “Royal Victoria & Brunswick”, the Brunswick being added after a recent trip with the Duke of Brunswick from London to Boulogne. A brass band played and refreshments were provided by the George Inn. In the evening there was a Grand Gala with a “gorgeous display of fireworks” attended by the mayor. Entrance to each event was one shilling (5p) for adults and sixpence (2½p) for children but garden subscribers and their families as well as children from charity schools were admitted free of charge. The estate was laid out by developers T. Morland and C. Wilkinson in 80 plots and the following year these were sold to local solicitors, builders and others. During the groundworks in 1852 a Roman tessellated pavement was found on the site of numbers 20-22 Castle Road. The street names do not seem to have been established until 1861 and many plots were not built on until the 1890s. Four plots at the North East of the site were bought by John Woodroffe on behalf of the Society of Friends (Quakers) for a new burial ground as their previous site in St Helens Lane had become full. No. 31, originally the Roman Urn public house, is now a private house. Some original house names 2 Roman Road: Belle Vue House 18 Roman Road: Reigate Villa 20 Roman Road: Westfield Villa 22 Roman Road: Victoria House 21+23 Roman Road: Lansdowne Villas 25+27 Roman Road: Belgrave Place 26-30 Roman Road: Botanie Cottages 31 Roman Road: Roman Urn public house 32-36 Roman Road: Stanley Place 38-46 Roman Road: Victoria Terrace 41+43 Roman Road: Caprera Villas 48+50 Roman Road: Albert Cottages 49+51 Roman Road: Carlton Place 53+55 Roman Road: Brunswick Place 62-66 Roman Road: Roman Villas 72 Roman Road: Ferndale Villa 80-82 Roman Road: Florence Villas 86-92 Roman Road: Landscape View 21-22 Castle Road: Melrose Villas 29-32 Castle Road: Castle View Villas 49-56 Castle Road: Radnor Terrace 58-61 Castle Road: Castle Terrace 67+68 Castle Road: Eaton Place Further reading On the Botanical Gardens: The Botanic Gardens in Colchester by Julie E Wing. Published by the author, 2001. A reference copy is available in Colchester Library. On the Grey Friars Church: The lost friary of Grey Friars by Philip Crummy; Colchester Archaeologist, Issue 20, pp. 24-5. Accessed: 4th February 2011. On the development of the estate: Modern Colchester: Town development; A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9: The Borough of Colchester (1994), pp. 199-208. Accessed: 4th February 2011. Drawing of Roman Road and Castle Road. The earliest houses built are shown in blue.