Model of Roman town


Dig it! exhibition

Bulletin 8 of 10

Model of the Roman theatre

Our model of the Roman town of Colchester – Colonia Victricensis – is starting to take shape. You can see how far we have got with it if you visit our Dig it! exhibition.

We’ve now modelled the landscape. If you know your Colchester, the River Colne is obvious but you may be able to pick out such places as the steep slopes of North Hill and Balkerne Hill for example. You can also follow the line of the town wall because we’ve made the trench where it is to be ‘built’. We’ve marked out the Roman streets, and you can see where the Roman circus is to go.

Some of the buildings have been printed out on a 3D printer – you can see these in the adjacent glass case. But it might not be long before we can install these on the model. We’ll do this when the transparent protective screen has been made and installed around the model.

Making the model is big painstaking job. There are about two hundred buildings to make plus much to do to create the landscape and a feeling of life and bustle in the whole thing. The model is 3 metre square and is at a scale of 1:400 which is a quarter that of our giant circus model.

Our plan is first of all is to install the town wall and gates. Then to make and put in place as we go the models of all of the buildings which we have been excavated wholly or partly. In other words, we start by modelling everything we know about the Roman town. Excavations provide crucial evidence crucial for this purpose particularly room sizes and shapes. Once this is done, we will then invent the rest but in a way which is in keeping with those models we have already made. We will also add in buildings that we expect existed but have not yet been found such as the amphitheatre, the senate house, a market building, and a major civic administrative building.  

There will also be a lot to do in the areas beyond the town wall where there were fields, streets, trackways, extra-mural houses and extensive burial areas. The river would have been busy so we will need some boats on it and warehouses nearby.

Difficult to say when we will be finished but there is a lot to do. The hard work is being undertaken by volunteers. Jonathan Pearsall helped by Neil Staff, Nensy Hasa, and Adreea Arseni carried out much of the work needed to make the contoured base. The final work on its plaster surface was undertaken by Phillipa, Carrie and Ellie who are now creating the landscape and soon some of the buildings. The 3D work (design and printing) is being done by Roger Massey-Ryan who has been a great asset to the Trust and the Roman Circus Centre since the latter’s very beginning. 

Temple of Claudius
The Roman circus
A large courtyard (excavated during the Culver Street excavations in the 1980s).
The Balkerne Gate (not yet painted)
Romano-Celtic temple outside the Balkerne Gate