A MYSTERY benefactor has pledged £10,000 to try to save Colchester’s Roman Circus.

The historic site, near Napier Road, will be taken over by developers unless £200,000 can be raised by January 31.

A consortium, consisting of Colchester Archelogical Trust and Destination Colchester, launched a fundraising campaign last week, and has already secured more than £30,000.

Anne Turrell, leader of Colchester Council, has said she will donate £5,000 from her leader’s fund, while her fellow Lib Dem councillors have pledged a total of £2,000 for the Circus from their own pockets.

The mystery man said: “I recently visited Rome and, while people might assume the centre of Rome was the Coliseum, in fact it was the Circus Maximus.

“It was used for all kinds of athletic events, not just chariot-racing.

“We should be proud that in this country we have something similar, if on a slightly smaller scale.”

Wendy Bailey, chairman of Destination Colchester and one of the key organisers of the group, said: “It’s just superb and so generous.”

The University of Essex has donated £5,000. Dr Tony Rich, registrar and secretary at the university, said: “This is a one-off opportunity to protect a vital part of Colchester’s Roman heritage.

“The university is pleased to support such an important project, which involves protecting a fundamental part of Colchester’s heritage.

“It will also allow important further research and development of our knowledge of the town’s history and leave open the potential for developing an important visitor attraction.”

Bill Hayton, co-ordinator of the Save Colchester’s Roman Circus campaign, said: “We are fantastically grateful for the university pledging money.”

Nigel Offen, Colchester councillor for Shrub End, confirmed his Lib Dem colleagues would be donating funds out of their own pockets, not from council funds.

He said: “I don’t think the council is going to be able to come up with very much.”

The developers, Taylor Wimpey, have agreed to sell the site to the group for £750,000.

The group managed to raise £500,000 prior to last week’s announcement of the fundraising campaign.

To donate, visit the website www.romancircus.org