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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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Interest in Crosby Garrett Roman helmet gives Carlisle economic boost

A unique Roman artefact has emerged as a champion of Carlisle’s cultural credentials – with traders and tourism chiefs keen for it to return.

Roman helmet photo
The Crosby Garrett helmet

The stay of the magnificent Crosby Garrett helmet has exceeded all expectations with 20,402 people from all over the world visiting Tullie House to see it.

But it’s also proven to be big business for the city in general, with traders, cafe, bar and restaurant owners in the area feeling the benefit of its presence as well.

The helmet was packed up and sent to the British Museum in London this week after a record-breaking three-month exhibition at Tullie House, which ended on Sunday.

Readers of The Cumberland News are today being encouraged to show their backing for any future effort that may be launched to bring the artefact back for another stay by demonstrating how much its visit has meant. You can add your name to the coupon on this page and post it or go to www.cumberlandnews.co.uk.

Any future return of the helmet – named after the Eden village where it was unearthed in a farmer’s field in 2010 – would be strongly supported not just by historians and Tullie House, but the wider business community.

Stephen Matthews, chairman of the Carlisle City Centre Business Group and owner of the Bookcase and Bookends bookshops in Castle Street, said: “Let’s have a Crosby Garrett helmet every week. It’s been a real attraction.”

He’s among those who have seen an upturn in trade, with the 2,000-year-old cavalry helmet triggering a surge of interest in Carlisle’s rich Roman heritage which people have been keen to read up on.

“This has brought people to Carlisle who would not normally come, as well as bringing lots of local people into town for an extra visit,” Mr Matthews said.

The renewed focus on the city – and the exposure the exhibition has given – is something the businessman and others are keen to build on.

“Carlisle suffers from not being as well known as it should be,” he added. “The more people who can be made to realise what a special city we have, the better. Very few cities have as much to offer as we have, but so many of them have a bigger reputation. That’s something we have got to work on.”

The final two days of the helmet exhibition sparked a rush of people to see the artefact before it left.

On Saturday alone, almost 1,000 people queued to get a glimpse of it.

Most were clearly amazed by what they saw as they walked around the glass case in which it was exhibited, showing the remarkable condition in which it remains and showing why it is considered such a special piece of British history.

Some of those getting a last look over the weekend had already been two or three times previously – many returning to show their partners, children or grandchildren.

The visitors’ book is evidence of their enthusiasm, with words such as “amazing”, “wonderful”, “beautiful” and “fabulous” the most frequently written in it. The farthest-travelled visitor came from New Zealand.

The excitement that has surrounded the exhibition has overjoyed managers at Tullie House, who worked behind the scenes for three years to negotiate the return of the helmet to Cumbria. The helmet was bought by a private collector at auction for £2.2m. As people queued on Sunday, marketing manager Michelle Wiggins said: “We’re delighted that so many people have come to see it. It’s such an amazing object. People have just wanted to see it in reality.”

Staff at the city council-run Tourist Information Centre in the Old Town Hall say the exhibition brought with it an increase in enquiries about trips to Carlisle and Tullie House.

Council leader Colin Glover also hopes the exhibition has added to work ongoing to open opportunities for the city.

“I’ve been absolutely delighted by the exhibition. It’s been fantastic,” he said.

“We’re really grateful to the owner of the Crosby Garrett helmet for the opportunity to bring it to Tullie House.

“I went to see it several times. It’s captivating. I saw it the first time it went on show at the Royal Academy in London and Tullie House displayed it far better.

“I’m really pleased people have turned out to see it. Hopefully, one day, it can come back again.”

Cumbria Tourism hopes the success of the show will serve as a powerful reminder of the rich culture and history of the county.

Managing director Ian Stephens said: “Cumbria has a long and illustrious past, a rich heritage that should be celebrated.

“From the sheer volume of visitors attending Tullie House we can see there is a desire to discover what makes this county what it is.

“Cumbria is home to the oldest human bones ever found in the north of England, the former northern-most frontier of the Roman Empire, as well as a wealth of Arthurian legends and a host of long-lost kingdoms.

“This is the place where the first ever English monarch was crowned in 927AD at Eamont Bridge and home to Iron Mad Wilkinson who produced and designed the first ever iron bridge and iron boat – the start of the industrial revolution.

“We as a county have much to be proud of, a heritage that stretches across the millennia, a heritage which we are still discovering – with Viking finds at Dalton-in-Furness, monastic finds at Furness Abbey, Roman finds at Epiacum, Alston, and Senhouse, Maryport. It is a past that captivates.’’

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