The first Roman chariot-racing track to be discovered in Britain may one day be open to the public, thanks to community campaign “Save our Roman Circus!”

Colchester’s Roman circus, discovered by the Archaeological Trust five years ago, is the only known Roman chariot-racing track in Britain.

The plot of land containing the starting gates is owned by property developers Taylor Wimpey, but an appeal on behalf of Colchester Archaeological Trust and Destination Colchester is trying to raise funds to buy the land and create a heritage centre.

So far £100,000 has been raised.

Campaign co-ordinator Bill Hayton said: “I am concerned that yet another piece of Colchester’s heritage will be swallowed up in development.”

Taylor Wimpey has set an asking price of £750,000 for the site, which comprises a vandalised sergeants’ mess and a portion of land. The sale needs to be completed by the end of February.

Development is not permitted on top of the archaeological remains and the company has pledged £10,000 towards the fund-raising target.

Simon Brown, of Taylor Wimpey East London, said: “We share local interest in conserving these remains and our home-building plans do not conflict with their wider preservation.”

Colchester resident Miranda MacDonald said: “The circus is incredibly exciting for Colchester — and the whole of Britain. It is the only one to be discovered north of the Alps.”

Colchester has been associated with horses for centuries, with the racetrack, cavalry barracks and, until a few years ago, the Colchester Garrison Riding Club.

• Visit www.romancircus.org

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (4 February, ’10)