Our history

The first Refuge in the Colchester and Tendring area opened in December 1977 in response to a desperate need in the locality for a place to which abused women, with their children, could escape from their violent partners. The campaign to establish a safe haven for such women began in 1975 when a small group of feminists, horrified by the evidence which was emerging of widespread domestic violence in contemporary Britain, decided they had to take some action. Their hard work and determination paid off. Eighteen months later they opened the first Refuge in Colchester. The house was soon full and, indeed, over the next few years it was frequently overcrowded. But it offered hundreds of abused women support and safety, and over the years it has enabled many women to start a new life free from violence.

During the early days the Refuge depended heavily on committed volunteers. However, it gradually attracted sufficient funding to appoint increasing numbers of paid staff. Alongside this, the Trustees’ strong desire to meet the needs of women and children escaping violent homes led them to enlarge the range of services the Refuge offered. Today, Colchester and Tendring Women’s Refuge offers its clients clean and comfortable accommodation and a variety of professionally delivered support services. However, despite the many changes the Refuge has undergone over the last forty years, one thing has not changed. The Refuge ethos of believing women, promoting self-help and allowing women to determine their own lives remains as strong as ever. The Refuge continues to strive to create a world in which women are able to become independent in their own right.

We intend to go on fighting for our clients who remain among the most disadvantaged groups in the country.


Some highlights of the Refuge’s history:


First Refuge opened in Colchester.


Moved into larger, improved premises,  containing eight self-contained flatlets.


Lottery-funded research project entitled Talking to My Mum carried out in partnership with the University of Warwick. This sought ways of developing communication between mothers subjected to domestic abuse and their children.


Named a winner by the Plain English Campaign for our publicity and information leaflet.


Acquired a second, purpose-built property  containing a further twelve self-contained flatlets to meet a huge increase in the demand for accommodation.


Bought a property in Colchester to open an Outreach Centre which we named For Women. Here women who don’t wish to come into a Refuge, or who have left the Refuge, can get support.


Our Children’s department was awarded an Outstanding accreditation by OFSTED.

Won the Colchester Business Award for Education and Life-long Learning.


Finalist at the Essex Business Awards for Education and Life-long Learning.


Annie Lewis, our Volunteer Co-ordinator, was selected by the Colchester Volunteer Centre for their Volunteer-Manager Award.


The admin department moved to the For Women building, releasing space for additional Refuge staff offices.


The Children’s Room was inspected again by OFSTED and once more awarded OUTSTANDING

  • Accreditaion, Awards and Membership Logos
  • Accreditaion, Awards and Membership Logos