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SILCHESTER ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE

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Site of a Roman amphitheatre at Calleva Atrebatum. It is situated about 170 metres north of the East Gate of the third century town wall and was first identified by William Stukeley in 1724. It survives as an earthwork, 90 metres east-west by 75 metres north-south, comprising two crescent-shaped earthworks surviving up to 5.75 metres high, enclosing an oval arena. Excavations between 1979-1985 showed the amphitheatre was first constructed, in timber, probably between 55 and 75 AD. It comprised a circular arena with opposing entrances on the north and south. Spoil from the excavation of the arena was used to create the seating banks. The seating banks comprised wide shallow steps which probably held simple wooden seating or terraces. The seating capacity has been estimated as between 3600 and 3700, or if the spectators stood on the wide terraces, up to 7250. A second timber phase dates to the mid second century and included modifications to the arena, changing it to an oval plan. The third phase of use was the replacement of timber with stone during the early to mid 3rd century AD. The oval arena was enlarged, and the walls of the passages and arena were constructed of flint, probably to a height of about 3.75 metres. The stone walls would have provided support for the lower seating tiers. This phase's seating capacity has been estimated at about 3000. There is no evidence for reuse of the amphitheatre until the late 11th/early twelfth century when a single-aisled hall was constructed in the arena. Fulford argues that the hall may be regarded as the manor house of Silchester during this period. The amphitheatre appears to have been used as a ringwork, containing the hall and possibly one ancillary building with traces of one or more possible fighting platforms. From the early 15th century until the 1970s the arena had been used as a farmyard for The Mount farmhouse, and had been metalled by the 17th century or early 18th century.

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