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Monument Name Roman Circus 200 m south of Abbey House
SMR Number 46327
Summary Roman Circus. see also 46188
Media
None Available
Associated Media
None Available
Description The Colchester circus is orientated east to west and measures 448.2 metres in length and between 71.1 and 74.2 metres in width. The area of protection also includes a ten metre buffer zone around the circus which is considered necessary for the support and preservation of the monument. Three area excavations and a number of evaluation trenches have been investigated and all contribute to our understanding of the form and fabric of the circus. Most recent excavations (2007) by the Colchester Archaeological Trust have exposed a section of the spina at the junction between Napier Road and Circular Road North. All the evidence helps to illustrate and confirm the archaeological potential of the monument. It has been calculated that the circus had a seating capacity of around 8000 - 15000. The starting gates are thought to have been situated at the western end of the structure with the semi circular end to the east. The stand or cavea at Colchester varied between 5.8m and 6.0m in total width. It was built of earth but was retained by stone or timber walls, a similar method of construction to that found in theatres and amphitheatres in Britain and elsewhere. At Colchester it is thought the inner cavea was built of stone. The large exterior buttresses with parallel, less substantial walls 5m inside imply the outer cavea wall was of stone and has been estimated to be at least 2m in height. These may have supported blind arcading enhanced with pilasters much like examples on the continent. Finds from robber trenches certainly confirm the presence of Romanised decorative architecture such as tile coursing, opus signinum facing mortar (fine Roman concrete) and a piece each of column and incised marble facing (possibly Purbeck) The stone used in the foundations of the cavea is greensand which is rare elsewhere in Colchester probably because it had to be bought in from Kent. On the whole dating evidence from the circus is limited but based on the dated contexts of the stone elsewhere in the area the use of Kent greensand implies it was built in the second century AD. The sheer scale of the building was so great that it is believed that the emperor must have paid for its construction. Hadrianís visit to Britain in AD122 is associated with a revival of public buildings in towns and it is thought that he may have been responsible for the construction of the circus at Colchester. A number of glass and pottery finds discovered in Colchester in the past depict images of chariot races. Given the discovery of the circus it is now thought that some of these may be souvenirs of actual events. New finds associated with the sport include a piece of horse furniture which was recovered from the robber trench of the inner wall A coin from a grave dated to the early first century AD features a four horse chariot and rider and is a rare find in Britain. A silver coin found in a rare hoard dated to between 150BC and AD117 also depicts a four horse chariot. It is unclear when the circus came out of use but analysis suggests the circus was probably levelled in the late Roman period, whilst the footings were subsequently robbed in the medieval period. Early medieval pottery from a trench dug to extract building material suggests that some material may have been dismantled and used in the abbey construction. The abbey precinct wall exhibits some odd bends in the south west corner and implies that its alignment may have been, at least in part determined by elements of the surviving circus. A section of the precinct wall lies approximately 60m west from the eastern end of the monument. It stands to almost 2.5m high and although there is evidence of dressed facing stone it survives mainly as a randomly coursed stone core. This section of walling is included in the scheduling. Excavation also confirmed that the circus was surrounded by a contemporary cemetery. A total of 516 burials have been excavated and recorded. The known areas of the cemetery have been fully excavated and preserved by record and are not therefore included in the scheduling. All buildings, with the exception of the upstanding precinct wall are excluded from the scheduling as are all road and path surfaces, fences signage and tennis courts. However, the ground beneath all these features is included.
Monument Type(s) CIRCUS (ROMAN) (Dated 43AD to 409AD)
Monument Class(es) DEMOLISHED BUILDING
Period 43AD to 409AD Roman
Status Not Known
Administration Area COLCHESTER, COLCHESTER, ESSEX
National Grid Reference Square: TL92SE
Ref: 996245
Finds None listed
Events Stage 2-Areas 2, 6 and 10

Phase 1 New Garrison

Trial trenching at Area C1X and Area C2X of the Garrison Urban Village

Geotechnical test-pits at Colchester Garrison

Geotechnical test-pits at Colchester Garrison Stage 2

Geotechnical boreholes and testpits- Phase 4

Various groundworks associated with the construction of the 'new garrison'

Munitions Clearance at Colchester Garrison

Survey of air-raid shelters at the garrison site

Car-park at the Musket Club, Garrison site.

Alienated Land Area S2 (south)

Area A,B,D,GJ,H,J,N,V and YP - Colchester Garrison

Areas DR, G, M, P, Q, R, RO, S and T - Colchester Garrison

Areas C1, C2, E, J1, O, Q and S - Alienated Land, Colchester Garrison, including the Time Team trenches and the Alienated Land watching brief.

Abbey Field sports pitches - Circular Road North, Colchester

Abbey Field - south of Circular Road North, Colchester

Abbey Field sports pitches - Circular Road Nort, Colchester

Area J1 - Colchester Garrison

Area E of the Colchester Garrison Urban Village

Area S of the Colchester Garrison Urban Village

Area KR at Colchester Garrison PFI site

Areas E and F at Colchester Garrison PFI site

Colchester Garrison PFI site

Colchester Garrison PFI site

Sources Scheduling record : Roman Circus 200m south of Abbey House (English Heritage) Dated : 2007

<1> Excavation report : The Colchester Garrison PFI project, Colchester, essex - a report on the 2003 excavation of Areas 2, 6, 10: August-November 2003. (Brooks, H and Masefield, R) CAT Report 292 Dated : 2005

<10> Desc Text : A survey of a group of air-raid shelters at Area C2 of the Garrison Urban Village, napier Road, Colchester, Essex. April-May 2004 (Lister, C and Orr, K) CAT Report 319 Dated : 2004

<11> Desc Text : An archaeological excavation and watching brief at the Musket Club, Homefield Road, Colchester, Essex. December 2004-February 2005. (Brooks, H) CAT Report 311 Dated : 2005

<14> Desc Text : An archaeological evaluation by trial-trenching on Areas A,B,D,J,H,J,N,V and YP at Colchester Garrison PFI site, Colchester, Essex: (Colchester Archaeological Trust) CAT Report 206 Dated : 2002

<15> Desc Text : An archaeological evaluation by trial-trenching on Areas DR, G, M, P, Q, R, RO, S and T at Colchester Garrison PFI site, Colchester, Essex- (Colchester Archaeological Trust) CAT Report 207 Dated : 2002

<17> Desc Text : Assessment report on the archaeological investigations carried out on Areas C1, C2, E, J1, O, Q, and S1 - (Colchester Archaeological Trust) CAT Report 361 Dated : 2006

<19> Desc Text : An archaeological watching brief on a new cable trench at the Abbey Field sports pitches, Circular Road Nort, Colchester, Essex - (Holloway, Ben) CAT Report 393 Dated : 2006

<2> Desc Text : Colchester Archaeological Trust- Garrison Reports (Crossan, C, Crummy,P, Holloway, B, Lister, C, Pooley, L and Masefield, R) CAT Report CD-R Dated : 2005

<21> Desc Text : An archaeological watching brief at the Abbey Field sports pitches, Circular Road North, Colchester, Essex - (Holloway, Ben) CAT Report 353 Dated : 2005

<26> Desc Text : An archaeological evaluation by trial-trenching at Area O of the Garrison Urban Village, Colchester, Essex, (Holloway, Ben) CAT Report 272 Dated : 2004

<29> Desc Text : An archaeological evaluation by trial-trenching on Area C at Colchester Garrison PFI site - (Colchester Archaeological Trust) CAT Report 197 Dated : 2002

<3> Desc Text : A watching brief at Colchester New Garrison (Phase 1) Colchester, Essex. February 2004-August 2005. CAT Report 357 (Brooks, H and Masefield, R) CAT Report 357 Dated : 2006

<32> Desc Text : An archaeological desk-based assessment of the Colchester Garrison PFI site (Colchester Archaeological Trust) CAT Report 97 Dated : 2000

<4> Desc Text : An archaeological evaluation by trial-trenching at Area C1X and Area C2X of the Garrison Urban Village, Colchester, Essex;May 2004. CAT Report 271 (Orr, Kate) CAT Report 271 Dated : 2004

<5> Desc Text : An archaeological watching brief on geotechnical test-pits at Colchester Garrison in Essex: March 2003. (Crossan, C) CAT Report 222 Dated : 2003

<6> Desc Text : An archaeological watching brief on geotechnical test-pits at Colchester Garrison in Essex, Stage 2. May 2003. (Crossan, C) CAT Report 231 Dated : 2003

<7> Desc Text : An archaeological waching brief on geotechnical boreholes and test-pits (Phase 4) Colchester Garrison PFI site. CAT Report 154 (Orr, Kate) CAT Report 154 Dated : 2001

<8> Desc Text : An archaeological watching brief at the 'new garrison', Colchester, Essex. January-March 2004. (Pooley, Laura) CAT Report 276 Dated : 2004

<9> Desc Text : An archaeological watching brief on munitions clearance at Colchester garrison, Essex. July-October 2002. (Tyler, S and Brooks, H) CAT Report 246 Dated : 2003

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