CAMPAIGNERS are now another step closer to saving Colchester’s Roman chariot racing circus.

Colchester Archaeological Trust has joined forces with tourism and regeneration group Destination Colchester to buy the sergeants’ mess building and its garden, beneath which the foundations of eight Roman starting gates are buried.

The Save Our Circus campaign, backed by the Gazette, raised £200,000 – the first step towards buying the building from developers Taylor Wimpey The campaigners’ mortgage application for the rest of the cash needed to buy the site has now been provisionally approved by the Charity Bank, with confirmation expected by the end of April.

Philip Crummy, director of the archaeological trust, said: “Several local firms, such as CH Lindsey, Ellisons and Stanley Bragg have all offered to help us with this critical stage of the project.

“We have also had several volunteers with building skills, such as plasterers, come forward with offers of help.”

The trust hopes to get the remaining £700,000 via a mortgage, lottery funding and cash from selling part of the building to developers to be converted into flats.

More volunteers are still needed to help with the refurbishment stage of the project . Anybody interested should contact Emma Spurgeon on 01206 541051 or e-mail

* Russell Crowe’s movie about a gladiator who defied the Roman empire is to be screened at the Odeon Cinema, in Head Street, Colchester, next month, to raise money for the Roman Circus appeal.

Fundraisers had originally hoped to show an even more appropriate film, the classic 1959 epic, Ben Hur, which is about a charioteer in Ancient Rome.

However, Guiseppe Musarra, marketing manager at the Odeon, was unable to get hold of a suitable print of Ben Hur.

Cinemagoers are being encouraged to come to the screening, on Thursday, May 18, in Roman dress, with the best outfit set to win a pair of tickets to the new Ridley Scott, Robin Hood, which also stars Russell Crowe.

A short introduction to the film will be given by Phillip Crummy. Tickets for the 8pm screening cost £10.