Town's Roman wall is 'crumbling'

A MEMBER of Colchester's famous Town Watch has made a scathing attack on the state of repair of the historic Roman walls.Jess Jephcott said that instead of being a major attraction for tourists, the oldest walls in Britain had been left to crumble and in some places even become an eyesore.

A MEMBER of Colchester's famous Town Watch has made a scathing attack on the state of repair of the historic Roman walls.

Jess Jephcott said that instead of being a major attraction for tourists, the oldest walls in Britain had been left to crumble and in some places even become an eyesore.

His concern prompted him to take photos of some of the worst affected parts and place them on a website, which details the history of the town.

Colchester Borough Council spends around £2,000 a year on the upkeep and maintenance of the walls with much of that spent on clearing dead grass and weeds.


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On his website, Mr Jephcott says that the walls were built nearly 2,000 years ago when the town was a Roman hillside stronghold during the occupation, but asks: "Does anybody care? It's only a silly old wall."

The site then shows a series of pictures, including some taken of overgrown grass on banks leading up to the sections that back on to private gardens.

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In another shot, he shows Duncan's Gate on the north face of the wall claiming vegetation is crawling all over it, uprooting the masonry.

Mr Jephcott said: "It's unbelievable what's happening here. They are just being neglected with grass overgrown, masonry falling off and weeds and tree routes just being allowed to seep through and make it all look.

"I recognise that the council can't foot the bill by itself, I don't think they spend enough.

"But we need more involvement – these walls are a national treasure. If you look at Chester, they really look after their walls," he added.

By general recognition, Chester has some of the best-preserved walls in the country. Although some of the main upstanding sections in that town were built in the Dark Ages – well after the Romans left – they are built on Roman foundations.

The city prides itself on its walls with tourists and shoppers free to walk above them, flitting between department stores and the multi-storey car parks that have been built with the ancient structures in mind.

In comparison, one of Colchester's car parks, in Priory Street, blocks visitors from inspecting the walls close up.

However, Keith Nicholson, head of Leisure Services at Colchester Borough Council, said this would soon be remedied by removing the car park. He also said the walls would be made a central feature of the plans for the regeneration of the St Botolph's quarter.

But he insisted there was no neglect. "There was a major project to repair the walls in the 1990s when Essex County Council and English Heritage spent almost £500,000.

"In fact, Colchester council has just agreed a £50,000 capital programme to repair some sections in Priory Street.

"£2,000 is probably not enough for yearly maintenance, but there's not enough money for everything that we want to do.

"If these people complaining want to come up with some possible solution, then they are free to do so," he added.

No one from English Heritage, the organisation responsible for funding the maintenance of designated national monuments, was available for comment yesterday.

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