Colchester’s historic Roman Circus – a new Attraction?

BIDS to turn Colchester’s historic Roman Circus into a visitor attraction will be submitted later this month.

Excavation of teh CircusThe proposals will be examined by Colchester Borough Council and put out to public consultation before a final decision is made over the future of the Abbey Field site.

Christopher Arnold, Colchester Borough Council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for culture and the environment, confirmed yesterday that design proposals for a visitor attraction were due to be submitted this month.

Three companies are competing for the project – Colchester-based Inkpen Downie, Chris Hudson Design of London and Headland Design Associates based in Chester.

The foundations of the circus were first discovered in late 2004 when an archaeological dig was taking place at Abbey Field prior to a development proceeding.

Thousands of visitors flocked to see the incredible find, which was reported on by media organisations from around the world.

It has also featured in the Channel 4 programme Time Team before the archaeological trenches that had been used were re-buried to help preserve the historic site.

Since then painstaking work has taken place to uncover some of the remains of the circus – the name given to chariot racetracks at the time – which is the only one ever to have been found in the UK.

The work has found the circus’ stands, a central barrier and one of two posts round which the racers would turn at one end of the track.

They also uncovered 12 gates which would have opened to release the charioteers onto the opening stretch of the 450-metre track.

Debris from a box which was above the gates and from which a magistrate would have dropped a handkerchief to herald the start of the seven-lap race was also found.Chariot Mosaic

A second magistrate would then have opened the gates with a lever, which would see the beginning of the spectacular competition.

The ruins were uncovered by Colchester Archaeological Trust workers checking for remains before the £1.6billion revamp of the town’s garrison started.

Colchester is Britain’s oldest recorded town and the first Roman capital of Britain as well as being home to Britain’s biggest Norman Castle.

Links:

CAT Excavations

Colchester based view

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