On Monday (1st August), a photographer from the Essex County Standard – Steve Brading – came to the Roman circus centre to photo. part of a modern mosaic which is being restored here. The mosaic is 6 metres by 3 metres in size. It was designed by artist Peter Froste and it was hand-made with over 200,000 tiny tiles by over 1,500 pupils from Colchester schools, who worked on the mosaic in groups. The project was undertaken to celebrate the Trust’s identification of the site of the Roman circus in Colchester in late 2004. The mosaic design was based on a Roman mosaic from Lyon which shows a birds’ eye view of a Roman circus, including accurate details of the structure, and a chariot race involving eight chariots.
The school pupils started the mosaic on the 1st November 2005 and completed it on the 20th September 2006. Most of the pupils were from the Philip Morant School and College, but pupils from other schools also helped, ie Hamilton Primary School, Prettygate Infant School, Prettygate Junior School, Home Farm Primary School, Gosbecks Primary School, and Lexden Primary School, as well as some adult volunteers, including Trust volunteers. The project was funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by Peter Herring who was assisted by a number of people. In 2007, the completed mosaic was put on display on a mound in the paddock between Le Cateau Road and Circular Road North, on the site of part of the Roman circus. The mounting and the information board were funded by the Friends of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, the Essex Heritage Trust and the East of England Co-operative Society. A number of local businesses generously donated materials to the project.
In 2012, the Trust moved into this building and opened the circus centre to visitors: the mosaic was still on display not far from the circus centre. In the same year, with the kind assistance of a group of soldiers from the MCTC in Colchester, we moved the mosaic into the grounds of the circus centre and covered it with a tarpaulin, as it had suffered some weather damage. We then sub-divided it into smaller sections and kept it in our storage building. Since 2015, a team of volunteers from NADFAS (the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies), assisted by Peter Herring and Trust volunteer Shirley, have been restoring the mosaic in one of the rooms of the circus centre where visitors can watch them at work. They recently reached a milestone in the restoration of the mosaic and so, on Monday, we celebrated by giving the volunteers each a slice of our chariot cake! The reporter was kind enough to be interested and came along – for an item to be printed in the Essex County Standard.
When it is restored, we are going to put the mosaic on permanent display here at the circus centre: it will be mounted vertically on a new wall beside the building, and protected by glass, so that visitors to the Roman circus will be able to fully enjoy it. We have printed a leaflet about the mosaic which is available to buy here at the circus centre and costs £1.00. You can read more about the circus mosaic in The Colchester archaeologist magazine numbers 20 and 25.
Many thanks to Peter Herring, Trust volunteer Shirley, the ladies from NADFAS, and Steve Brading!
Visit the web-site of NADFAS at www.nadfas.org.uk/ .
The images show three of the ladies from NADFAS with their most recently-completed section of mosaic, the cake, and Steve in action; the section of mosaic; another completed section of mosaic with a large poster of the original mosaic in the same room; and an image of the original mosaic.