Public viewing plans for chariot track

A SECTION of a Roman chariot track recently discovered in Colchester could be preserved for future generations to see in a specially built viewing building.

By Juliette Maxam

A SECTION of a Roman chariot track recently discovered in Colchester could be preserved for future generations to see in a specially built viewing building.

Archaeologists uncovered the only known Roman circus in Britain on the site of the garrison, which is due to undergo a massive re-development.

Plans are being drawn up to keep a portion of the circus open to public view, by constructing a glass and metal building over it. There would also be a reconstruction of the circus grandstand.


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Displays would give information about the circus, which is the largest known building from Roman Britain apart from Hadrian's wall.

None of the hundreds of artefacts found on the site, including coins and burial pots, would be exhibited in the building - they are destined for Colchester Castle museum.

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People taking a Blue Badge tour - perhaps of the proposed heritage trail through the planned St Botolph's quarter and St John's Abbeygate - would be taken into the building.

The viewing building would be similar to the Roman theatre in Maidenburgh Street, Colchester, in which visitors can look through windows and see the remains.

The route of the circus would be marked out with a different coloured paving or road surface, and perhaps a footpath, just as the Roman theatre footprint is marked out with dark cobbles.

Much of the circus site was due to be covered over with housing, but developer Taylor Woodrow has said it will not build on any of the remains.

It is unlikely archaeologists will dig up the whole circus, as some of it runs underneath roads and buildings.

Little remains of the walls and grandstand, because they were plundered by medieval builders, who in places reduced the circus's two-metre tall walls to nothing, even taking out all the foundations.

Philip Wise, Colchester Museums curator of archaeology, said: "We want to present the site to the public in an exciting and meaningful way."

He added: "2,350 people came to the open day. Since then it has seen by another 200 or so people, which reflects the interest the discovery has generated and the fascination this is for local people."

Mr Wise said the council is now looking into funding partners to help with the project.

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