Colchester Young Archaeologists’ Club in April ’18: at the Roman circus!

The Colchester Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC) met here at the Roman circus visitor centre on the 21st April to explore the Roman circus itself!

Colchester YAC organiser Barbara Butler writes: ‘… We held our April meeting at the Roman circus visitor centre after the re-opening of the Roman circus site, visitor centre and tea room for the summer season, and after the Peter Froste archaeological art exhibition had opened.

Fifteen YAC members arrived and were taken on a guided tour of the Roman circus site and visitor centre by one of the Trust’s volunteer tour guides, Vicki. The tour included viewing the reconstructed stumps of the circus starting-gates through the special ‘window’, to get an idea of how the arches above the stumps may have looked, and looking over the site to see the extent of the Roman circus. We also looked at the archaeological art exhibition of works by artist Peter Froste.

The YAC members were provided with a 50-question quiz on the Roman circus and the art exhibition. The exhibition includes Peter Froste’s design for the modern Roman circus mosaic which was made and has now been restored by volunteers, and which is now on permanent display at the Roman circus visitor centre. All the answers to the quiz could be found either inside the Roman circus centre building, in the art exhibition, or on the site of the Roman circus.

The next YAC meeting is on the 19th May, the day of the Royal wedding, so we will enjoy a game of matching up kings, queens and marriage dates from the 11th to the 21st centuries and creating a time-line of them all. We will also run through the answers to the quiz from the April meeting …’.

The Roman fortress was built at Colchester in AD 44. In AD 49, the fortress was decommissioned and its buildings converted for civilian use in the colonia (Roman town) here and, from AD 49, the Roman town was built on and around the site of the fortress. In AD 61, the Roman town was destroyed by fire during the native British (Boudican) revolt. From AD 61, the Roman town at Colchester was rebuilt, In about AD 70-85, the great defensive town wall was built around the town centre. The Colchester Roman circus was built in the early 2nd century AD, outside the town wall, and it would have been used as a venue for chariot-racing. We think that it went out of use by the end of the 3rd century. During the following centuries, the Roman circus deteriorated and then was demolished, and people removed the materials for re-use in other buildings, even digging trenches to ‘rob’ the stone of its foundations below-ground! The Trust identified the remains as representing the site of a Roman circus in 2004.

With thanks to Vicki.

*** For visitor information for the Colchester Roman circus visitor centre and tea room, including opening times, details of our Saturday guided tours and about pre-booking guided tours for groups, please go to .

The images show the Colchester YAC members at the Roman circus visitor centre, in the garden of the former Sergeants’ Mess in the former Artillery Barracks of the old Colchester garrison, imagining what the circus starting-gates would have looked like and then racing out of them!



If you are aged under 17 and interested in joining the Young Archaeologists’ Club in Colchester, then please contact Barbara Butler on  07808  9 6 8 766  or at barbara[at] or Barbara Butler, Colchester YAC Branch, c/o the Colchester Archaeological Trust, Roman Circus House, Roman Circus Walk, Colchester, Essex CO2 7GZ.

The National Young Archaeologists’ Club web-site is at .