ESAH at the Colchester Roman circus visitor centre

The committee of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History (ESAH) came here to the Roman circus visitor centre on Saturday (29th April) for one of their quarterly meetings. The committee members began their visit with lunch in the circus centre tea room and then joined a guided tour of the Roman circus visitor centre and site led by Colchester Blue Badge guide Jonathan Pearsall, before holding their meeting in our large upstairs office.

ESAH is the principal archaeological institution in Essex. It was  founded at the old town hall in Colchester in 1852 as the Essex Archaeological Society (and formed from the Colchester Archaeological Association). It became the Essex Society for Archaeology and History in 1985. The meeting at which ESAH was founded also included a proposal to establish a museum in Colchester, and ESAH claim the founding of Colchester museum in 1860 in the chapel at Colchester Castle, which has become the Colchester Castle Museum of today. In 1857, ESAH described Colchester as ‘the archaeological capital of the county’! ESAH have organised meetings, excursions and visits for members since their foundation. A history of the early years of ESAH is published in the Trust’s online archive at .

The Trust and ESAH enjoy some long-standing connections. The second chairman of the Trust – Major John (Jack) G S Brinson FSA (chairman of the Trust in 1971-4 and honorary secretary of the Trust in 1964-72) – was also president of ESAH in 1960-64 and again in 1972-73. Trust senior archaeologist Howard Brooks is currently a member of the committee of ESAH and attended the meeting on Saturday. The annual journal of ESAH – Essex Archaeology and History (EAH) – includes summaries of the Trust’s fieldwork projects in the previous year. The EAH journal was originally called the Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society (TEAS) and it was first published in 1858. We hold a collection of the journal in our library, dating back to 1895.

The journals include articles of history and archaeology and, also, reports on excursions. TEAS volume vii, part 4, printed in 1899, includes an illustrated report on the ESAH meeting and visit to Bartlow Hills at Ashdon in Essex in July 1899, where a paper on the funerary barrows was read to the members, followed by tea in the vicarage gardens… Interestingly, in September 1899, the ESAH meeting and excursion included a visit to the church at Stow Maries, where there is now a preserved WW1 airfield and visitor centre: the Roman circus visitor centre and the Trust’s HQ are, of course, housed in a former barracks NAAFI of 1937. ESAH is still organising and enjoying visits and excursions. Everyone likes to visit and look at historical and archaeological sights and sites – but, it seems, especially archaeologists and fans of history and archaeology…

There is an item about ESAH on this web-site at (2015). Visit the web-site of ESAH at and the ESAH blog at .

*** The Roman circus visitor centre, site and tea room are now open for the summer. Admission is FREE. We provide some free car-parking spaces for visitors. The visitor centre, site and tea room are wheelchair-/pushchair-acessible. We welcome pre-booked groups for guided tours of the visitor centre and site and ‘tea’. We also provide guided tours of the visitor centre and site on Saturdays, starting at 12 noon and 1.00 pm, and costing £3 per adult (accompanied children under 16 FREE). This is, of course, the site of the only Roman circus known in Britain.

The images show a print of Bartlow Hills from the TEAS journal volume vii, part 4; a historic site photo. from the Trust’s Lion Walk site in Colchester in 1972, showing (from left): the then Mayor of Colchester, Trust director Philip, the famous Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Trust chairman Major Brinson (wearing a bow-tie), and the Mayor of Wetzlar, all viewing the excavation; and the ESAH committee at the Roman circus visitor centre on Saturday [image to follow].