Tuesday, November 5, 2013


A SPECTACULAR Roman helmet, which was unearthed near the Ancient Roman frontier in Cumbria northern England in 2010 and fetched more than £2 million at auction, has returned "home" to Cumbria to be displayed at Tullie House, Carlisle.

The private owner of the stunning piece of art, called the Crosby Garrett helmet for the place where it was found, finally consented to have the helmet placed on exhibit at Tullie House.

The finding and subsequent sale of the helmet prompted a campaign to keep the historical treasure as the centrepiece of a Roman Frontier gallery which opened at Tullie House last year.

Despite a valiant fund-raising campaign, which brought in £1.96 million in just three weeks, when the helmet went under the hammer at Christie’s in London in May it was sold to a private collector for £2.3 million, almost eight times its estimated price.

Thanks to the generosity of that private buyer, the helmet has been loaned to Tullie House, where it will be on display until the end of January, when it will be transferred to London and shown at the British Museum from 3rd February.

It is just the second time the helmet has been on view to the public after it was previously part of a Royal Academy of Arts exhibition in London called "Bronze."

Hilary Wade, director of Tullie House Trust, said it was only around a year ago that the museum was able to make contact with the private owner and it was thanks to their generosity the artefact could be returned to the county it had lain in for 2,000 years. 

"I’m so proud and delighted to have it here. It is an absolutely stunning piece. There's been so much interest in it over the years and people always ask about it and for us to be able put it on show is a fantastic opportunity," she said. "I think there will be a lot of interest and hope we will be getting a lot of visitors."

The rare cavalry helmet was found on farmland by an unemployed graduate in his 20s, using a metal detector with the landowner's consent.

The mask was found intact but the helmet was in 67 fragments and has been painstakingly restored by experts. The bronze ceremonial parade helmet has been hailed by experts as one of the great masterpieces of Roman metalwork.

Tim Padley, curator of archaeology at Tullie House, believes there are many more Roman artefacts to be unearthed in the Eden Valley, but the likes of the Crosby Garrett helmet would be a once-in-a-lifetime find.

He explained that although historians can never be certain why the helmet was found at Crosby Garrett, it was known to be good horse-rearing country, so that could be a link.

There are also people who believe it was captured from the Romans by the natives, but Mr. Padley felt it was more likely to have been a gift.

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