Located in the East of England, Colchester is a historic town with roots that go all the way back to Roman Britain (and beyond). Although it’s modern and cosmopolitan, Colchester still retains its character as an English market town. Colchester offers an attractive combination of a good standard of living, proximity to major cities and a nearby university. Although other towns in Essex have a better reputation, Colchester is a location well worth considering.
Is Colchester a good place to live? Colchester has plenty of employment opportunities, good educational establishments and lots of amenities. While the town centre can become rowdy late at night, it’s a good place to purchase a first home, raise a family or retire.
Whether you’re starting a new job in Colchester, embarking on a course at Essex University or simply considering relocation to the UK, you probably have a number of questions.
- What’s Colchester like?
- How much does it cost to live in Colchester?
- Which Colchester neighbourhoods are the most desirable?
- Is it a good idea to retire to Colchester?
To find out the answers to these questions and more, read on.
Is Colchester a good place to live?
Different sources will give you different answers and much depends on what you’re looking for in a location. On the whole, Colchester is a good place to live. There are significant advantages to settling in Colchester, particularly if you currently work in London or the nearby cities of Chelmsford or Norwich. Commute times are short and properties in the town are cheap to rent or buy.
While Colchester as a whole sometimes scores poorly as a place to live, this is rather misleading; as with many towns there are better and worse areas to live. As an example, the outlying village of Wivenhoe was voted one of the best places to live in Britain in a Sunday Times poll.
Detractors like to make much of the rise in homelessness in recent years and the supposed rise in the local crime rates. Although there’s been something of an uptick in offences in recent years, Colchester still has a relatively low crime rate. Violent crime is fairly rare and is chiefly limited to scraps between drinkers at the weekend.
The Greenstead and White City neighbourhoods are most frequently mentioned as areas to avoid but even in these neighbourhoods crime is not especially bad. Areas like Highwoods contain a mix of higher and lower income households, leading to greater affordability without a decline in security. More desirable areas tend to lie outside the town proper. Villages such as the aforementioned Wivenhoe are generally regarded as the best places to live.
The school system in Colchester operates on the same two-tier system as the rest of Essex, with both comprehensive and selective secondary schools. The majority of secondary schools are comprehensive, with two schools (Colchester County High School and Colchester Royal Grammar School) being selective. There are also private schools, including Colchester High School.
One of the most common reasons people come to Colchester is to attend the University of Essex, a public research university. The main campus is Wivenhoe Park, known for having been painted by John Constable. Rated 22nd in the UK, the University of Essex has produced several notable alumni.
The town is small enough to walk around easily, with local bus services connecting outlying districts to the bus terminal in the town centre. Colchester is on the Norwich to London rail route, making it easy and quick to access either city.
Whether you plan to work or study in Colchester, you’ll want to participate in the local social scene. While the bars and clubs in the town centre are rather generic, they’re nothing if not lively. (The presence of the nearby military base sometimes means that things can get a little too lively.) If clubbing isn’t to your taste, there are plenty of other social events to enjoy; these include films, theatre and some excellent dining.
Is Colchester a good place to work?
The average salary in Colchester is rather lower than the UK average but higher-paid jobs are available. While unskilled individuals might struggle, those with good qualifications and marketable skills should face few obstacles.
Businesses in the care and tech industries are some of the top employers in Colchester. The tech recruitment company Whitehall Resources is based here, as is the highly regarded care staff provider Care UK. As you’d expect in a university town, the University of Essex provides many of the jobs available in Essex; they offer some attractive packages and are generally well-regarded as an employer. Thhe presence of many recruiters and agencies in the town makes it much easier to find quality opportunities than it might otherwise be.
Of course, many Colchester residents live in the town and commute to other locations. Employers in the greater Colchester represent some of these but many people choose to work in Norwich or London while living in Colchester. This option opens up many opportunities for Colchester residents.
Unemployment in Colchester has decreased in recent years as Essex recovers from the general economic dip affecting the country as a whole. There has also been a decrease in underemployment, with more workers able to leave part-time jobs for full-time employment.
The average salary in Colchester is around £32,000, as compared to the national average of £36,000.
Is Colchester a good place to Buy a House?
At first glance, average prices across Colchester are rather higher than in some nearby cities and do not compare especially well with, for example, Chelmsford. This partly reflects the higher property values in desirable locations such as Wivenhoe.
Within Colchester, there’s a significant variation in property prices depending on the neighbourhood where you purchase. Propertties in less desirable areas such as Greenstead tend to be a great deal cheaper, although you will have to factor in the level of comfort you might feel in the neighbourhood itself. Mixed-income areas like Highwoods offer a reasonable compromise, with fairly inexpensive properties in a more salubrious district. Buyers do not tend to remain in Colchester over the longer period, choosing instead to move to one of the nearby cities.
On average, you can expect to pay around £142.000 for a 1-bedroom house in Colchester. A three-bedroom home will cost around £284,000 andd a larger 5-bedroom home averages £532,000.
Rental prices are similarly varied. The average monthly rent in Colchester is around £990 but some properties are significantly cheaper to rent, again if you don’t object to a rather less desirable. neighbourhood.
The average rent for a one-bedroom house in Colchester is £770 pcm. A three-bedroom house costs£1,100 pcm with large 5-bed homes renting at an average of £1,800 pcm.
Is Colchester a good place to retire?
When you’re ready to begin a brand new episode of your life, retiring to Colchester can be an attractive option. Colchester makes an appealing destination for retirees as it’s well-connected to both road and rail services, allowing for plenty of enjoyable trips to nearby cities and seaside towns. There is plenty of entertainment of all types, along with excellent access to quality healthcare.
In general, retirees tend to favour outlying neighbourhoods and villages on the edges of the town rather than the town proper. Wivenhoe in particular is very popular with seniors looking for a scenic area with a high quality of life with Greenstead and other low-income neighbourhoods proving less popular. If you have your heart set on a more central location, there are a number of attractive purpose-build retirement properties to consider on and around Colchester High Street and the Exeter Drive neighbourood.
Property prices are varied. Near the town centre, you can expect to pay around £186,000 for a one-bedroom or studio flat in a purpose-built retirement community. Almost all retirement flats in Colchester are one-bedroom, two-bedroom or studio flats.
Of course, if you want a larger dwelling, you can purchase an ordinary three-bedroom house for around £284,000 or a 5-bedroom home for £532,000. An average rent would be around £680 pcm for a one-bedroomed flat or £750 for a two-bedroom flat, although exact prices vary greatly depending on location. Single rooms in retirement dwellings can be an inexpensive option, with £65 per week being a commonly quoted figure.
Is Colchester a good place to visit?
Colchester is a great place for a day out or a short break. There is plenty to see and do in this historic town, from museums to play parks. A variety of accommodation is available, from comfortable budget lodgings at hotel chains to historic hotels that are destinations in their own right.
The town centre is equipped with plenty to keep the most ardent shopper happy for hours. Aside from the usual big-name stores there are plenty of independent shops and boutiques, chiefly on Lion Walk and Red Lion Yard. When you’re tired of shopping you can stop for a bite at one of the local eateries, ranging from cafés offering world cuisine to hearty pub staples.
Colchester Castle is a popular landmark for visitors, containing a museum that provides fascinating information about the area’s history. You can learn about the town’s development from an early settlement in ancient Britain to the thriving market town it is today. Colchester boasts many relics of its Roman past, including sections of the town walls. Gosbecks Archaeological Park preserves and displays several Roman structures. A truly unique feature of the town is “Jumbo”, a brick water-tower constructed in 1883.
Colchester also offers plenty of fun modern attractions, including a skate parks and several sports stadia.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.