A TOP BBC science and history presenter explains today why Colchester’s Roman circus must be saved in the national interest.

Adam Hart-Davis says circuses were like “football, the cinema and pop concerts” rolled into one in Roman times.

The Oxford University graduate, who made the documentary What the Romans Did for Us, is a patron of the Save Colchester’s Roman Circus campaign.

His support is a coup for appeal organisers, because the veteran broadcaster is such a hugely respected figure.

He recently fronted several spin-offs from his Roman series, focusing on Victorians, Tudors and Stuarts.

He also published a biography of Thomas Crapper, one of the pioneers of the flushing toilet.

Two schools yesterday got behind the appeal to raise £750,000 to build a heritage centre on the site of the circus’s starting gates.

Holmwood House School, in Lexden, held a dress-down day and re-enacted a Roman chariot race in the school hall to raise funds.

Children acted as horses by pulling teachers around a two-lap circuit in teams of four while headteacher Alex Mitchell posed as a Roman emperor.

Pupils read out announcements in latin, the ancient language, which was spoken throughout the Roman empire.

At Hamilton Primary, in Constantine Road, Colchester – a stone’s throw from the circus site – pupils raised £308 with a non-uniform day.

Headteacher Clive Reynolds said: “We’re very keen to support local community charities and we feel that we, as a town, need to make more of our cultural heritage, especially when it is right on our doorstep.”

The campaign to buy the Victorian former sergeants’ mess, off Circular Road North, and turn it into a heritage centre, has so far raised more than half of the £200,000 needed to get the scheme off the ground.

If the £200,000 target is reached, it is hoped the rest of the money will come from Colchester Archaeological Trust, which wants to set up offices upstairs from the heritage centre, and private investors who would convert another section of the building into flats.

Call Isobel Merry on 07891 234274 to make a pledge, or go to www.romancircus.org