Caroline Lawrence and Millie Binks Join a Growing List of Celebs Fighting to Save Colchester’s Roman Circus

Dan Cruickshank is front-page news

Best-selling author Caroline Lawrence has added her name to a growing list of celebrities supporting the fight to save Colchester’s Roman Circus.

Lawrence, the author of the Roman Mysteries series of childrens books, joins other high-profile people backing the appeal, including authors Ronald Blythe, Guy de la Bedoyere and Adam Hart-Davis, Time Team presenter Tony Robinson, architectural historian and TV presenter Dan Cruickshank, broadcaster Peter Snow, and former MP and cabinet minister Tony Benn.

Colchester was the first Roman capital of England, and boasts a number of well-preserved sites such as the Norman castle and Roman wall, which was built to defend against the ruthless Boudica. Lawrence will present a multimedia presentation in the town on February 19 to raise money for a public appeal aimed at rescuing the Sergeants Mess, a Victorian building that has the gates to the Roman Circus the UKs only Roman chariot racecourse beneath it.

Some 750,000 is needed to prevent the building falling into the hands of developers. A public appeal needs to contribute 200,000 of this by the end of February, with this kitty currently standing at 160,000 following a 30,000 donation from the council. The remaining 550,000 will then be found via grants and loans.

Colchester’s Circus isn’t the only Roman site currently under threat in the south east. Canterbury’s Roman Museum is also threatened with closure as part of the local council’s bid to cut costs. The museum contains original frescoes and part of a Roman pavement.

Concrete Plans are in Place for the Site

Proposed visitors centre for Colchester Roman Circus

If the appeal run by Destination Colchester and the Colchester Archaeological Trust is successful, a free public facility will be created on the site, complete with informative displays, a cafe and a garden featuring the remains of the eight starting gates.

Lawrence described the Circus as a real national treasure that was well worth saving for the thousands of schoolchildren (and their parents) who love learning about Britain’s Roman heritage.

One of the delights of writing the Roman Mysteries is the research I do, delving into the world of ancient Rome, she says. One thing I have come to realise is that many Roman institutions have modern equivalents, but the one aspect of Roman life we simply cannot replicate is a day at the [chariot] races.

CBBCStar to Join Lawrence

Site of Colchester's Roman east gateThe charity presentation on February 19 which could raise as much as 1,000 will also feature Millie Binks (a Colchester local), who plays the character of Pulchra in the CBBC adaptation of Lawrences books.

Lawrence said the presentation would be an illustrated talk that brought to life a day at the Roman Circus, describing the sights, sounds and emotions of a day of chariot racing.

The presentation will take place from 2pm on Friday, February 19 at the Colchester Arts Centre. Everyone attending will take home a free signed copy of one of Lawrences books. Tickets are 6 and can be bought online or over the phone on 01206 500 900.

More information on the appeal is on the official site, on the Facebook group Save Colchester’s Roman Circus and on Twitter.