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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 January, 2005, 11:17 GMT
Builders find chariot race track
A Roman-style chariot race at the Puy du Fou themepark
Chariot racing was very popular in the Roman world
The remains of the only known Roman chariot racing track in Britain have been found under an army barracks being redeveloped in Colchester.

New homes are going up on a 209-acre site where builders preparing the groundworks excavated what they believe is a race track nearly 2,000 years old.

Developers Taylor Woodrow said they are delighted at the find and will include it as a feature in their development.

Archaeologists say it was built around the 2nd century.

Finding the chariot track was an exercise in detective work according to archaeological consultants RPS of Colchester.

Chariot racing was very popular in the Roman world but only four tracks have been found in the north western provinces
Robert Masefield
Director Robert Masefield said: "We have been excavating on the site for several years to assess any significant archaeological finds.

"Two trenches revealed two parallel walls which we thought were the precincts of a temple.

"There was also a road nearby but it was not until we investigated a third side that we found another wall and the remains of an entrance."

Phillip Crummy director of Colchester Archaeological Trust suggested that it may be a Roman circus where chariot races were held.

He took a drawing from a known race track in Spain and superimposed it over a plan of the Colchester finds and all the features fitted with a discrepancy of only one metre.

Family entertainment

Mr Masefield said: "We were certain it was a circuit and delighted because the only other evidence in Britain was in London and that was only part of a circus and was discounted.

"Chariot racing was very popular in the Roman world but only four tracks have been found in the north western provinces.

"Colchester was a colony town and its inhabitants were mainly veteran Roman soldiers and their families and this would have been one of the pastimes they would have enjoyed."

The find is on the site of the former Cavalry Barracks and is being developed as homes and commercial premises for local people.

James Moodie, project manager for developers Taylor Woodrow, said: "We are delighted to incorporate the find into the development.

"It came at an ideal time for us. We have just acquired the land from the MoD and we are just designing the development."

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