VOLUNTEERS are being sought to tidy up the grounds of the old Colchester Army building it is hoped will become a Roman circus heritage centre.

Campaigners, who helped raise £200,000 towards buying the former sergeants’ mess as a venue for the chariot racing arena visitors’ centre, will be staging the clear-up on Saturday.

Organiser Howard Lake said: “As part of the process of making the sergeants’ mess more presentable, we are inviting volunteers to come and help us tidy up the frontage.

“All are welcome to join us from 9am until lunchtime – or whenever we run out of steam!”

Colchester Archaeological Trust has not yet completed the purchase of the building, which has the starting gates of the ancient circus buried in its garden.

However, owner Taylor Wimpey is supportive of the bid to buy it and has agreed to grant access for the cleaning and weeding operation. Historian Jess Jephcott will be bringing a power strimmer to make the job easier, but helpers are needed to lop buddleia and weeds and carry the debris away.

Anyone willing to assist should bring gloves and brooms, while brushes and scythes will also be useful. The archaeological trust put in a planning application last week to convert the building into a visitor centre with displays and video simulations.

The aim is to recreate the exciting atmosphere which once drew crowds of 10,000-plus to the circus, the only stadium of its kind to have been discovered in Britain.

Most of the necessary funding to buy the sergeants’ mess is in place, but the trust is still looking for one more investor to buy a stake of about 25 per cent for £270,000. The section of the building up for sale is not needed for the heritage centre and could be converted by the buyer into a four-bedroom townhouse.