CAMPAIGNERS have enlisted the help of St Valentine in their quest to save Colchester’s Roman circus.

The deadline to raise the £750,000 needed to get a heritage centre for the site has been extended until February 28 – two weeks after Valentine’s Day.

As Christian martyr Valentine was a Roman, campaigners have decided the annual celebration will be the perfect chance to woo donors into boosting their cause.

Fundraising manager Isobel Merry said: “I’m proposing we have a week of events called Love Roman Colchester, leading up to Valentine’s Day.

“We are considering all sorts of ideas, but we might get bumper stickers printed up with the logo, or get restaurants to put on I Love Roman menus.

“Valentine’s Day would come at the perfect time to give us a big push.”

The total in the appeal kitty is now close to £100,000, thanks to pledges made over the weekend. Mrs Merry said one donor had offered £1,000 in a telephone call yesterday.

The campaigners’ plan is to buy the former Victorian Sergeants’ Mess – where the Roman Circus’ starting gates are buried in the garden – from developer Taylor Wimpey.

Part of the ground floor of the building in Circular Road North would become a visitor attraction, with displays about the ancient chariot-racing arena and its discovery by archaeologists in 2004.

In the future, it is hoped the gates themselves could also be exposed, under a protective covering, for tourists.

About £200,000 should be enough to get the scheme off the ground, as £500,000 is expected to come from Colchester Archaeological Trust and private investors.

St Valentine was a priest in Rome who suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Pagan Roman authorities, in about AD 269. For reasons now lost in the mists of time, his saints’ day became associated in the middle ages with celebrations of romantic love.