English Heritage joined forces with the Historical Association earlier this year to offer a local heritage challenge competition designed to get learners looking at and discovering new things about their local area. Cirencester Deer Park School's GCSE historians rose to the challenge and entered the competition in May. In no more than 300 words they had to name their favourite local heritage site/building and explain why. It just so happened that this coincided with their current module on local heritage where pupils have been encouraged to look into the significance of local historical sites.
The chance to win an all expenses paid day trip, including an expert-led Discovery Visit to a site of their choice for the class, encouraged some high-spirited competition amongst the students even before any entries were submitted! But on June 22nd Deer Park pupil Matthew Corke heard that he had been successful with his entry on Cirencester's Roman Amphitheatre (an English Heritage site which can be visited by all free of charge at all reasonable times).
After a recent trip there Matthew wrote:
My favourite heritage site is the Roman Amphitheatre in Cirencester. The site is known by everyone in the town and holds fond memories for us all. In the summer children from the local primary schools meet at the Amphitheatre (or 'Ampy') to chat and socialise; they enjoy rolling down the hills and running amongst the trees. In the winter, the site is used by young people sledging on the slopes, it is a place for the entire community to come together and create memories that are passed down through generations. It is not just the young people in Cirencester who enjoy the site; during the mornings and lunchtimes, other residents of the town walk their dogs and catch up with each other whilst gazing at the picturesque views.
Although the site is not very well preserved and the original foundations are hidden by layers of earth and grass, the entrance and exits of the old amphitheatre can still be seen and the hills where the crowds of Roman onlookers would have sat can still be seen clearly. Archaeological digs nearby have uncovered enclosures where the animals would have been kept before their fights. The amphitheatre at Cirencester was one of the biggest in the country, and was rebuilt in the early second century to include small buildings around the edge of the ring which may have been further enclosures or even cells for convicts.
I hope the site is preserved in the future as it is a fine example of the grandeur that used to be in Corinium. There are few other significant sites that have survived since the Roman times and many finds are mostly preserved in museums and private collections. This site deserves to be remembered by all and its story should be told to everybody!
On winning Matthew commented "I didn't expect to win, it's a great surprise!"
The class are now discussing with English Heritage which site they would like to visit since they are all involved in a student-led enrichment project that involves the pupils organising a residential to Viking York as part of another GCSE module on Raiders and Invaders. They hope to combine Matthew's winning 'Discovery Visit' and their trip to York to make it a really engaging and successful expedition.