An interpretation centre for Colchester’s Roman circus moved one step closer to reality when the Borough Council approved our planning application for the proposed conversion of the former Army Education Centre into the centre piece for the scheme. The aim is to rebuild much of the ground floor to create a large L-shaped interpretation hall, a tearoom, a shop and toilets. The front of the building would be given a major makeover with a large glass front etched on to which would be an artist’s impression of the central part of the starting gates at actual size. Through lively and informative displays, visitors to the centre will be able to explore the most popular spectator sport in the Roman Empire – how the races were won and lost, the people and horses who took part, and the fanatical fans who cheered them on.
The upstairs of the building is to become the new home of the Archaeological Trust. The Trust is to occupy 60% of the building and will therefore carry 60% of the purchase and basic refurbishment costs. The rest will be covered by part of the appeal fund since 40% of the building will be used to create the interpretation centre.
The next step is to submit a planning application setting out in detail the proposals for the treatment of the complete west end of the circus including of course the site of the circus starting gates in the garden of the Sergeants’ Mess. It is hoped that the application will be lodged with the Council early in October.
Then will follow a phase of intensive fund raising. This will be aimed at grant-giving bodies in the hope of raising enough funds for the main phase of the scheme when a large part of the education centre would be rebuilt (the relatively modern, flat-roofed part) as part of the works for the new centre.