FINDS from Northumberland which have been voted Britain’s greatest archaeological treasure are set to return to the county.
Their homecoming is just one of the spin-offs from news today that the Vindolanda Roman site in Northumberland has been earmarked for £4m in Heritage Lottery funding.
The money would mean that the Vindolanda Trust could expand and upgrade the museum which houses spectacular discoveries from the annual digs which take place on the site.
A significant element of Vindolanda’s collection currently in storage will be able to be shown for the first time.
At the centre of the new display would be examples of the Vindolanda writing tablets.
Around 2,000 of the tablets, which carry the voices of people from almost 2,000 years ago, have been found at Vindolanda.
After conservation and research, they are sent to the British Museum.
Talks are under way with the British Museum on using the new display area for an exhibition of a selection of the tablets which would be periodically refreshed with new examples.
Patricia Birley, director of the Vindolanda Trust, said: “The Vindolanda tablets are currently held at the British Museum but the project will enable selected tablets to be returned and displayed where they were written.
“We are delighted with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) decision. The grant is an immense boost for the work of the Vindolanda Charitable Trust and it will also enhance the central sector of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
“The trust is extremely grateful to the HLF for their support for this project which is so important for the preservation, access and sustainable future of this exceptional northern frontier Roman site.”
The £4m has been set aside by the HLF as a stage one pass.
Vindolanda can now progress to stage two and submit a further, fully developed application to secure the full grant.
The grant would also pay for the conversion of an existing building into an education centre and accommodation for lower-income dig volunteers.
Each year more than 500 volunteers work on the Vindolanda excavations, many of them travelling from across the UK and from overseas.
Another project would be a new exhibition at the neighbouring Carvoran Roman Army Museum.
This would focus on the different ethnic make-up of the army and the population of Hadrian’s Wall.
Dr Keith Bartlett, head of the HLF in the North East, said: “Vindolanda is one of the most fascinating and exciting sites in the history of the Roman world, shedding light upon the everyday lives of those who lived and worked there.
“The Heritage Lottery Fund’s support will enable the Vindolanda Trust to open up this unique site to many more visitors and so further enhance tourism in the North East.”