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Race on to save Britain's only Roman chariot racetrack

By Super Admin

London, Feb 8 (ANI): Residents of Colchester in the UK are trying to raise money to save the country's only Roman chariot racetrack.

Colchester was the Formula One track of Roman Britain, with the only chariot racing circus ever found on the island, and the first found in northern Europe for 20 years.

Now, according to a report in The Guardian, modern residents have less than a month to raise the money to save a unique monument and create a visitor centre to reveal the site's history.

The racetrack is still buried under roads, gardens and old army buildings, but campaigners want to buy a large Victorian garden covering the key part of the circuit.

Under the grass lies eight stone enclosures, originally with double wooden doors like giant greyhound racing traps.

Each would have held a nervous driver standing in a chariot as fragile as a bentwood chair, reins wrapped around his waist so if he crashed he would probably be dragged to his death, and his four horses waiting for the race marshal on the open balcony above to start the race.

The land is the garden of a listed but derelict sergeants mess, which will become an exhibition, and home to community groups, if the campaign succeeds.

The campaigners need 200,000 pounds by the end of February to buy the garden and have the site taken off the market.

Digs suggest the circus was built in the early 2nd century, and lasted about 150 years before falling out of use, possibly because local grandees could no longer afford the high cost of day-long races - with not only free admission but the crowd expecting gifts.

Nothing remains above ground except stones taken for later building, but for almost 2,000 years the 350m outline has remained remarkably intact, under fields and 19th-century army land.

The stable blocks that held up to 2,500 horses for a day's racing might lie under derelict Victorian cavalry stables and barracks.

Archaeological expeditions traced long stretches of the perimeter, which had banked seats holding up to 15,000 people.

In the central reservation, they found bases of start and finish posts, and water pipes proving the circus was grand enough to have the elaborate fountain lap markers shown in Roman mosaics.

They also found scraps of beautifully decorated carriage harness right up against the wall - evidence of an F1 style crash when a driver lost control of his team and spun off into the barrier.

All the fragile remains were buried again for protection, but the site is now a scheduled ancient monument. (ANI)

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