On a recent family trip to Colchester Zoo we visited All Saints' Church. Unused and ruined for centuries, it now sits inside the zoo's grounds, beyond the Orangutan enclosure. Not much remains but it was an interesting and unexpected find for us.
A church or temple has existed on the site since Roman times. The church you can see today dates from the 13th century, but it was altered considerably over the years until it became derelict in the late 17th or early 18th century. The main remaining feature is the 14th century west tower, with its distinctive check-patterned base. All Saints' was once a parish church, but later became a manorial church serving Stanway Hall (Colchester Zoo was originally called Stanway Hall Park Zoo and the manor building is still in use as zoo offices).
As part of the planning permission for the Orangutan enclosure, Colchester Zoo was required to renovate the church ruins; removing ivy and repointing the walls. The renovation took place in 2007-2009 costing £180,000, and before that - in 2005 - there was an archaeological excavation of the medieval graveyard which surrounded it. The report is linked to at the bottom of this article. The density of graves uncovered (34 within a dig area of 25 square metres) imply thousands of burials around the church, most of which are presumably still there. The excavated remains were reburied on-site.
I took lots of photos while the girls collected acorns around the church. They had enjoyed seeing the animals - the giraffes, especially - but somehow collecting acorns seemed the most fun thing they had done all day. Typical kids, eh? I found something a bit odd when I reviewed the photos at home, so I've made them into a slideshow:
Yes, it's most likely a raindrop distortion, and not a ghost. However, something a bit weird at such a spooky location seemed worth sharing. On the day we visited, there was a display of false tombstones in front of the church. They had details of now-extinct animal species. The church ruins are used during the zoo's 'Fright Night' Halloween events, and I can imagine they are incredibly atmospheric in the dark.
Especially now I know the church is definitely maybe haunted.