The excavations by Fairweather in 1937 uncovered considerable Roman foundations of what may have been a Roman villa on the site of the later priory. There is no evidence of there having been a Roman town on the site however. The next information on the history of Earls Colne is a reference in a will dating to c.950 (Reaney, 1935). In 1045 there is a reference to a minster at Earls Colne, and in 1066 when Wulfwin held the manor there was a village, a hall and two mills.
William I granted the manor of Colne to Alberic de Vere, and it remained in his and his descendants, the Earls of Oxford, possession until the 16th century. In 1101-7 Alberic de Vere founded a small Benedictine priory, between Earls Colne and White Colne. At this point Earls Colne became administratively two manors, the ‘earldom’ manor and the priory manor. At some point before 1309 the settlement was granted a market by the de Veres.
Earls Colne remained a small market town serving the needs of the immediate area, the only major change being the closure of the Priory in 1536 by the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In the mid-19th century when Reuben Hunt founded the Atlas Ironworks on the south-western edge of the town. This became the towns principal employer and benefactor, and a dominant force in its subsequent development. Hunt erected a large number of dwellings to house his managers and workforce and also provided a number of public buildings and the supply of water, gas and sewerage.