THE ONLY KNOWN ROMAN CIRCUS IN BRITAIN
Scheduled Ancient Monument Number 46327.
In 2005, it gradually dawned on the archaeologists that the remains that they were discovering as part of an evaluation dig for a property developer prior to building works, was, in fact, a Roman circus. Understandably, this caused great excitement in the archaeology world, as no other Roman circus is known in Britain. Over the months that followed, more and more of the foundations were uncovered and the true extent of the circus was discovered.
Apart from a few sporadic small exploratory digs, sadly, there the story of discovery ended. The remains were covered over to preserve them and the weeds began to grow. Many people asked what was to become of the circus. No positive answer was forthcoming. Nobody knew. In order to make something of it, money was needed - a lot of money. Colchester Borough Council pointed out that it had no money to spare. A lottery bid was made - and that failed.
At the present time, there are no signs to lead the curious to the site; no indicators of where this unique ancient monument lies. There is no money available, we are told. But the Roman Circus of Colchester is not forgotten.
This web page........
.......introduces you to the circus, showing you press cuttings from the earliest stages of discovery, through to the current situation. Sadly, we have had to fight to protect our circus, as this was a truly inconvenient discovery for the building company who had bought the land. Luckily, English Heritage saw the imminent threat and the importance of the site and swiftly made it into a Scheduled Ancient Monument. This was fantastic news for Colchester! Effectively, the circus has blighted the owner's prospects for building on the site. The people of Colchester are asking for a small part of the the site to be given back to them so that they can develop it as part of its unique Roman heritage.
In August 2009, the BBC did an interview with Philip Crummy of the Colchester Archaeological Trust concerning the Shared Vision. The interview can be seen here.
So, as you will see, by following the various links below, all was not well for the circus, but things are looking much better for its future now. Roman Circus House is now open for business and is welcoming visitors.
This is the new emblem for Roman Circus House and depicts what is believed would have been the colours for the chariot teams.
See the 'Plan B' details of the
Colchester Archaeological Trust
by clicking on the following image.
Please follow the links below for more information.
January to March 2005
with details of the ongoing excavations work, findings, predictions and discussions. UPDATE THREE
June 2005 to January 2008
with details of the mosaic created by children, the Heritage Lottery Fund bid and the Time Team visit (and also a section about the discovery of a Roman bath complex at the Sixth Form College).
February 2008 to December 2010
The campaign to buy the Sergeant's Mess.
January 2011 to October 2012
The failure to buy the Sergeant's Mess but the successful purchase of the Education Centre.
The Colchester Roman Circus Leaflet
Butt Road Car Park - an archaeological survey
In October 2012, the Trust were involved with an archaeological dig in Butt Road Car Park, which adjoins Roman Circus House. This was in advance of the proposed building of new housing on the site. As expected, the site revealed yet more of the extensive Roman period cemetery, of which so much is already known from previous digs in the areas to to the south of the colonia. Tens of thousands of burials would have taken place during the 350 (or so) years of Roman occupation, stretching across a huge area. No burials are known within the confies of the circus.
Here follows a few pictures of some of the finds:
The burials that were being found were believed to be of British people in general, although that would have, of course, included migrants to Britannia from far and wide. These were of 1st to 4th century AD. The higher status burials of Roman citizens or soldiers, seem to have been to the west of the colonia, along what was the road to Londinium and therefore not part of this evaluation.
The types of burial fell into several categories:
Funeral pyre in situ, where a pit was dug below the pyre and the whole remains ended up in the pit. Clear evidence of skull, torso, feet, bones could be identified from incomplete cremation, at the correct positions where expected.
Funeral pyre, where the body was cremated and then the larger bone fragments taken and put in a cremation urn to buried elsewhere. The ashes and remaining bone fragments were then cleared and taken to another specific area of the graveyard and mixed with many others. Clear black areas in the soil found at these areas (busta?).
Inhumations with or without coffins, early ones usually with grave goods for the 'afterlife', orientated randomly for earlier (pagan) burials but also clear east/west for later Christian burials.
No markers or altars were found.
Britain's Roman Towns are unique inheritances from times long past and should be treasured, maintained and safeguarded from neglect, damage and destruction and passed on into perpetuity as irreplaceable 'Timestones of History'
Please also take a look at Peter Findley's CGI interpretation of how the circus might once have looked.
To see more of Colchester's heritage sites, please explore the following links:
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