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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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More than 20,000 see Roman helmet at Carlisle museum

A late rush of visitors clambered to catch a glimpse of a rare and iconic Roman artefact before it leaves Cumbria today.

Roman helmet photo
Michael O'Neil and daughter Rosie view the helmet

The number of people who saw the Crosby Garrett Helmet during its stay in Carlisle topped 20,000 on the record-breaking exhibit’s final day.

There were queues at Tullie House throughout the weekend with people of all ages keen to see one of the most remarkable discoveries ever made in Cumbria.

Almost 1,000 people passed through the museum on Saturday in what was most likely its busiest ever day.

And by mid-afternoon yesterday the total for the entire exhibition had risen to in excess of 20,100 – almost double the number Tullie House bosses expected.

Some in the queue had already seen the unique cavalry helmet but were desperate to see it again before the privately-owned piece was packed up and taken to the British Museum in London, where it will be the centrepiece of another exhibition before going back to its owner.

As they reached the haunting but alluring exhibit, many spent a few moments looking at it in awe.

Among them was Michael O’Neil, 40, of Wetheral, who took along nine-year-old daughter Rosie.

“It’s very impressive,” he said. “This helmet really belongs here.”

Kath Hughes, of Stanwix, Carlisle, took along twin daughters Erin and Niamh, also nine. She too agreed the exhibit was impressive, adding: “It’s got an air of mystery about it.”

Karen Smith, 62, of Wigton, had already taken her grandchildren to see the helmet, but yesterday took along 66-year-old husband Alan for a final look. She said: “It is impressive, especially the fact that it was dug up after lying for so long.”

The 2,000-year-old helmet, bought by its mystery owner at auction for £2.2m, is named after the Eden village which lies near to where it was dug up in 2010.

It was brought to the Tullie House, which had been one of the other bidders at the auction, following long and detailed discussions.

Bosses, overwhelmed by the success of its three-month stay, would love to see it return, with its visitor numbers more than three-times higher than the same period last year.

Museum director Hilary Wade said: “It’s been phenomenal.”

Describing the scenes of people queuing over the weekend, she added: “I’ve never seen anything like it.

“This really has been a first for us. People have been so keen to see this. Some have been coming for a second and third time.”

Visitors from all over the world – including one from New Zealand – have visited the exhibition.

Tullie House marketing manager Michelle Wiggins said: “We’re delighted so many people have come to see the helmet. It couldn’t have gone better.”

The Crosby Garrett helmet is believed to be one of only three of its kind to have been found in Britain.

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