This is Britain’s only known Roman chariot-racing track.
Located in Roman Britain’s capital city, Colchester, the circus seated more than 5,000 spectators and was used for around 150 years. The circus was likely built at the same time as the city’s ancient walls, during the revival that followed the city’s destruction in Boudica’s fiery 61 CE rebellion.
At well over 1,00 feet in length, with pipes indicating the presence of elaborate fountains marking each lap, the ornate stadium is thought to have been funded by emperor Hadrian himself. Although little more than groundwork and starting gates remain, the remnants of an intricately embellished chariot harness found on one wall hint at the splendor now only imaginable.
Clear screens overlay the remains to depict the grandeur of the stadium. The adoring crowds are represented on a much smaller scale by a metal sculpture depicting the silhouettes watching from their amphitheater-like seating. These only go so far as to recreate the ancient scenes, however. Local pottery and glass from the period once thought to depict the circuses of Rome are now believed to be souvenirs of Colchester’s very own Circus.