Exceptional Roman cavalry helmet discovered in Cumbria

Published: 11 years ago Author:

An image of the Roman helmet restored by Christies

Earlier this year, an astonishing Roman cavalry helmet was discovered by a metal detectorist searching on disturbed pastureland with the landowner's permission at Crosby Garrett in Cumbria.

This helmet is only the third known example discovered in the United Kingdom; however neither of the previous examples is as complete or as elaborate in design. The face mask of this helmet is of the usual style - an idealised youthful visage (Greek in style), clean shaven with a head of luxurious curly hair.

This exceptional discovery of National importance, will hopefully be acquired for Tullie House Museum and it has been recorded in full (with a precise grid reference) on the Portable Antiquities Scheme's database (record number: LANCUM-E48D73). The find spot has been visited by local archaeologists and Scheme staff, and a preliminary assessment has been made of the discovery site.

The helmet was discovered in 67 pieces and has been restored at Christies to the state in which it has been offered for sale; images of the helmet in its discovery state can be seen attached to the Scheme's record.

Several experts have examined the helmet and Dr Ralph Jackson of the British Museum said:

The face mask of the Cumbria helmet, like many others, is both extremely finely wrought and chillingly striking, but it is as an ensemble that the helmet is so exceptional and, in its specifics, unparalleled. It is a find of the greatest importance. As a most powerful symbol of the might of Rome, it is a star display piece which could hardly be more appropriate to the collections, galleries and curatorial expertise of Carlisle's Tullie House Museum: it is vital that the Museum secures it.

Dr Roger Bland OBE, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum said:

This is an internationally important find and one which everyone agrees should be in a museum in this country and we are supporting the efforts of Tullie House Museum in Carlisle to acquire it.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme played an essential role in working with the finder to discover exactly where it was found, so that Tullie House Museum are able to bid for it and we hope that they are successful, although it is always difficult for a museum to buy an object like this at auction.
It is a pity that the object was restored before there was any opportunity to examine it scientifically, as that would have given us more information about how it came to be in the ground. We hope it will be possible for there to be an archaeological examination of the findspot.

Sally Worrell, National Finds Adviser (Roman and Prehistoric artefacts) for the Scheme said:

..without a precise find spot the archaeological significance of this rare find would have been greatly diminished, and now we know where the object has come from, it would be great for it to be displayed in a local museum for the public to enjoy. Our FLOs for Cumbria, Dot Boughton and Stuart Noon, have visited the findspot and have discovered previously unknown evidence for human occupation in the immediate vicinity of the findspot. We very much hope to be able to investigate this further, as is so important to know as much as possible about the context of the find.

It is now being offered by Christies at auction on the 7th October 2010 and the sales catalogue entry can be seen on page 118 - http://bit.ly/bLELjN.

The image on the right depicts the Roman Cavalry helmet, copyright Christies.

Further reading

Report on helmet by Ralph Jackson [pdf]

Contact: Roger Bland 0207 323 8611


There are 5 comments on this story.

  • Michelle wrote @ 21:18:52 on the 14th September 2010.

    Please join the 'Keep it in Cumbria' group on Facebook to keep the helmet in the county where it was found:


    For more information about the appeal and how to pledge a donation please visit:


  • keith bennett wrote @ 10:37:34 on the 6th October 2010.

    Do you realy expect us to believe this was dug up in the UK????

  • ken tonge wrote @ 13:35:21 on the 8th October 2010.

    Amazingly similar to the ones I've seen in brochure pictures from the Limes in Germany. It really should be kept close to where it was found. As should the Elgin marbles, the Lewis chessmen, etc.

  • Chris Lilley wrote @ 23:47:03 on the 8th October 2010.

    "images of the helmet in its discovery state can be seen attached to the Scheme's record."

    It would be very useful to add links to those images to this page. All most of us have seen is the, well, not exactly conserved, but restored, state of the helmet.

  • cliff wrote @ 23:43:24 on the 19th November 2010.

    I totally agree with Keith Bennett. I do not believe this is a UK find.Although some people might want you to believe it. Lets hope it's gone back to the country from which it recently came from.

Other formats: this page is available as xml json representations.