Calls for town to get heritage status

THE discovery of the remains of a Roman chariot racetrack in Britain's oldest recorded town has led to renewed calls that Colchester should be granted World Heritage Site status.

By Roddy Ashworth

THE discovery of the remains of a Roman chariot racetrack in Britain's oldest recorded town has led to renewed calls that Colchester should be granted World Heritage Site status.

Media from around the world yesterday descended on the recently-found ruin, which was uncovered by archaeologists scouring the Abbeyfield area prior to redevelopment.

The latest find - the only known 'Roman circus' in Great Britain - adds to a wealth of archaeological and historic artefacts already located in Colchester.


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As well as the longest surviving Roman Wall in Britain, the town also hosts a Romano-British temple associated with a 5,000-seat theatre - the largest known Roman theatre in Britain - and Europe's biggest Norman Castle.

It is the oldest recorded town in Britain, the first capital of Roman Britain and was also the Ancient British tribal capital of Camulodonum.

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Yesterday Colchester MP Bob Russell said he would be raising this week's dramatic discovery with officials at the Department for Culture, who are responsible for Britain's World Heritage Site applications to the United Nations.

Mr Russell said: “I had already discussed Colchester's case with the top official at the department who handles these matters.

“I believe that Colchester's already strong case for inclusion in the UK list of applications has been dramatically boosted with this latest discovery, which is of international significance.”

Mr Russell said the chariot-racing stadium, which was found during work on the town's £1.6 billion garrison redevelopment project, was the largest to be found outside Italy.

Yesterday a spokesman for Taylor Woodrow, the building firm which owns the 200-acre site on which the chariot racetrack was found, said that despite the allocation of 2,500 houses for the ex-MoD plot, the ruin would be preserved.

He said: “This small part of our site will not influence the development of the scheme - we are very pleased to have found it.

“It will help with our marketing and it will help form part of our development.

“It will have very little effect on us other than a positive one.”

He added that although house construction might take place up to the edge of the Roman circus site, none of the remains of the building would be built over or removed.

“We will take account of it and we are looking to mark the route of the track for posterity, so it will always be recognisable,” he said.

“We will incorporate into the scheme a visual reminder of the route - we will work with Colchester Borough Council and English Heritage to come up with something appropriate.

“It could be a map or a visual corridor - the intention is the alignment will be kept forever.”

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