Roman treasure to go on show in North museum

One of the most striking Roman treasures to be unearthed in the north of England is to go on public show

Christie's/PA Wire The Roman bronze helmet complete with face-mask
The Roman bronze helmet complete with face-mask

One of the most striking Roman treasures to be unearthed in the north of England is to go on public show.

The Crosby Garrett Roman helmet, a rare cavalry helmet in the form of a beautiful face mask, was found by a metal detectorist near Penrith in Cumbria three years ago.

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle launched a fund-raising campaign to buy the helmet, but it lost out at auction to a private buyer who paid £2.3m for the spectacular find.

Now the helmet is to go on show next Friday at Tullie House Museum until January 26 before moving to the British Museum in London from February 3 to April 27.

The display at Tullie House is supported by the Art Fund and The Monument Trust.

The bronze ceremonial parade helmet is named after the hamlet where it was discovered on farmland, and has been hailed by experts as one of the great masterpieces of Roman metalwork.

Dating from the late First Century to the Third Century AD, it is unparalleled in its detail and the most complete and elaborate of only three such helmets to have been found in Britain.

The mask portrays a haunting, youthful male face framed by a ring of exquisitely detailed curls and topped by an extremely rare Phrygian cap decorated with a griffin.

Tullie House will show it from November 1 in a room of its own, where visitors can enjoy a 360 degree view.

Hilary Wade, director of Tullie House Museum, said: ‘We are absolutely delighted to be able to display this beautiful helmet and are grateful to the owner for this generous loan.

The helmet is one of the most extraordinary objects from the Roman period in Britain.

“It was made for splendid sporting events rather than battle and shows what a spectacular impression the cavalry would have made. The helmet will complement our Roman collections and will add to visitors’ appreciation of the Roman presence in this region.”

Roger Bland, keeper of the British Museum’s Department of Prehistory and Europe, said: “We welcome this opportunity for the public to see the Crosby Garrett helmet, first at Tullie House Museum, in the region of its discovery, then placed alongside the famous Ribchester Helmet at the British Museum in London.

“While the exquisite craftsmanship of these helmets underlines the Roman technical achievement, their chilling face masks are an almost literal embodiment of the ruthless power of the Roman army.”

The Crosby Garrett helmet is a copper alloy two-piece face mask visor helmet unearthed in a field near to an old Roman road. The mask of the helmet would have hinged at the centre of the brow – within the curly hair.

At the neck it was fastened by a leather strap, which encircled the nape of the head-piece and was secured by its eyeleted ends to an iron stud beneath each ear of the mask.

The survival of the head-piece of the helmet is exceptional.

Originally, the finely crafted mask would have been polished white metal giving it a silver appearance in contrast with the golden-bronze of the hair. Colourful streamers would have been attached to the back.

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