THE organisers of next year's York Roman Festival are bridging the gap between past and present in spectacular fashion.

Preparations for the York Roman Festival 2005 have begun in earnest, including plans for a replica Praetorian Gate at the site of the main entrance to York's original Roman Fortress, which was in St Helen's Square.

Designed by ScenecraftUK, at Easingwold, the original idea for the gate came from a former Lord Mayor of York, Coun Charles Hall, who is patron of the festival.

He said: "I've long had this vision that York should show off its hugely significant Roman history and this is a fitting recreation of what would have been a magnificent architectural Praetorian Gate, which would lead into the principal street of Roman and modern historic York."

Nick Eggleton, secretary of the festival, said:"York's Roman history and heritage is incredible. The remains of Roman occupation are splendid, but today its Viking and medieval counterparts overshadow this aspect of the city. York's Roman heritage deserves to be better understood and appreciated, and with generous support from sponsors, this imaginative event will be an important contribution to that end."

The sight of Roman soldier re-enactors marching around the city will be one of the main attractions to the festival, which takes place over the first weekend in August.

Next year a changing of the guard will also take place in St Helen's Square and at the sites of the other two main gates, at Bootham and the end of Petergate.

Gillian Cruddas, chief executive of York Tourism Bureau, said: "The York Roman Festival is fast becoming one of the highlights of the summer festival season, drawing thousands of visitors to the city. The plans for next year, including the Gate, look to make it even more exciting than before."

Updated: 10:00 Thursday, November 18, 2004