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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Carlisle museum launches public appeal to buy Crosby Garrett Roman helmet

It was a routine day out, one that the treasure hunter and his metal detector often made to the fells of east Cumbria.

Roman helmet appeal photo
Tullie House's Rebecca Warren with the helmet appeal

Related: Appeal launched to keep rare Roman helmet in Cumbria

Download: Appeal pledge form

In the past, visits with his son had uncovered many medieval trinkets buried in the topsoil of the fells.

But this time, in the spring sunshine, he was to make a far more significant find.

Buried just below the surface, undisturbed for almost 2,000 years, was a beautifully-preserved Roman cavalry parade helmet.

While it was immediately apparent that the helmet, which was in around 30 pieces, was a discovery of utmost importance, quite how thrilling a find it was for Roman historians and archaeologists was still to be revealed.

This week, however, after auction house Christie’s placed a £300,000 estimate on the Crosby Garrett helmet, experts have been grasping at fresh ways to describe its importance.

Hilary Wade, museums and arts manager for Tullie House in Carlisle, said: “In terms of the quality of archaeological finds, it’s one of the top Roman items ever found in this country. It’s such a significant find, and it’s so outstandingly beautiful. The workmanship is magnificent.”

Now, Tullie House has launched an appeal to keep the mask in its new £1.5 million Roman Frontier exhibition permanently, to prevent other bidders from taking the helmet abroad when it goes up for auction in London next month.

Bids have been lodged with the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Arts Fund, while the museum is also launching a public appeal to help raise its own funds to pay for a bid.

Mrs Wade added: “It’s going to be a very significant item for Carlisle and Cumbria. What’s so important is the economic tourism angle of it and how it will attract visitors to Cumbria.

“It has tremendous potential to be a star piece within the new gallery we are opening next year.”

If Tullie House is outbid, export of the helmet is likely to be temporarily barred by the Government to give a British museum the chance to match an overseas buyer's bid. Tullie House needs to raise between £200,000 and £300,000 to secure the artefact and is launching an
urgent public and corporate appeal. You can download a pledge form here.

The helmet, which dates from the early part of the second century AD, was of a type often used in cavalry games, a type of ancient military tattoo, and was probably used as part of a display to impress the population of places conquered by the Romans.

It is the first item of its type found in the UK for more than 100 years, and is only the fourth helmet found, on the third different site.

  • Full story in today's edition of The Cumberland News

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