A ROMAN feast helped raise thousands of pounds towards saving a piece of Colchester's history.

Campaigners now have a treasure chest to rival Julius Caesar’s after the event at Colchester Garrison Officers’ Club raised money to save the town’s Roman circus.

The £30-a-head bash raised £3,200, which included an anonymous donation of £1,000 and a raffle which raised £700.

This takes the total collected for the campaign above £118,000 – well over half the amount needed to kickstart plans to buy the site of the circus’s starting gates.

Don Quinn, who organised the feast, thanked all the performers who helped to make it a night to remember.

He said: “They were all brilliant, absolutely terrific. I doubt there has been a night like this in Colchester for many years.”

The event was attended by 160 people who dined on a first course of Colchester oysters – a popular Roman delicacy – which were donated free of charge by Mersea producer Richard Howard.

That was followed by a tasty main course of roasted partridge, to the accompaniment of a performance by belly dancers and some fierce ancient Britain-style tribal drumming.

Once the meal was over, Cockney Rebel guitarist Robbie Gladwell and his band brought the house down with an hour-long set.

Mr Quinn said: “Nobody wanted to stop.

“I don’t think there was a single person not dancing.”

* The Gazette is proud to be backing the Save Colchester’s Roman Circus campaign.

Its aim is to create a heritage centre on the site of the ancient chariot racing arena, which was discovered by archaeologists in 2004 near Abbey Field.

The starting gates of the stadium are buried in the garden of a Victorian former sergeants’ mess which was sold by the Ministry of Defence to developer Taylor Wimpey.

The campaigners need £750,000 to buy it, but £200,000 should be enough to start with, as Colchester Archaeological Trust is looking to buy part of the building to serve as its offices.

It is hoped private investors will also come in on the deal to turn part of the property into flats.

Lottery funding will be sought to create the heritage centre on part of the ground floor, with displays about the circus’s discovery and video recreations of what it looked like in its heyday.

The archaeological trust also plans to expose the remains of the starting gates under a protective covering so visitors can look at them.

Colchester Council has money available for markers in other sections of the arena so tourists will be able to walk around it, following in the hoofprints of ancient Roman steeds.