URGENT repairs have been carried out to the remains of what is believed to be the oldest surviving Christian church in Britain.

The ruins, in Maldon Road near Colchester Police Station, date from 320 AD, the closing century of the Roman occupation of Britain, but were only discovered about 50 years ago.

Colchester’s High Steward Sir Bob Russell reported the deteriorating condition of the remains to Philip Crummy, who is the director of Colchester Archaeological Trust.

He, in turn, arranged for archaeologist Nigel Rayner to undertake the works.

Mr Crummy said: “The remains were in a terrible state.

“Some bricks were lost entirely, disintegrated and loose stones had fallen out of the walls.

“Mr Rayner has filled in the resultant voids and repointed sections of the walls.

“The new mortar will weather in a year or so when it won’t stand out the way it does now. The timber posts need to be replaced and the rest of the walls could do with a good brush up with no doubt a bit more repointing to follow as a result of doing this.”

Sir Bob said he would like to see the site, which is owned by Essex Police, taken over by Colchester Council or Historic England to ensure its future.

He has also called for new signs to be put up in the town centre to tell the public about the hugely important historic site.

“Both the Roman Circus and Roman Church should be regarded as major tourist attractions,” he said. Sadly, neither is being regarded as such by those for whom promoting tourism should be taken more seriously than it is.”

Colchester Council said it was in the process of enhanced signage for historic locations in the town.

A spokesman said: “The Roman Church currently features in the Museum Service’s Ancient Colchester App Trail, which is free to download, and is also promoted on the museums’ website and within Visit Colchester’s Roman pages and audio tour.

“In addition, the church is included in the official Historic Colchester Guide as well as a booklet dedicated to the original excavation of the surrounding site, both of which can be purchased at the VIC and Castle.

“The Roman Church was also highlighted as a stopping point on the free Family Heritage Treasure Trail, during the summer holidays, as part of the wider #ColchesterForFree campaign.”