FEARS over flooding have dealt a major blow to the dream of creating a permanent exhibition venue for the "Premier League" Roman archaeology found in north Carlisle.

The chance discovery last year of a superbly preserved Roman bath-house beneath old tennis courts at Carlisle Cricket Club triggered huge excitement, with historians hailing the discovery as the most significant of its kind for decades.

The stone structure and stunning treasures within it were found during a routine archaeological dig carried out in preparation for the building of a new cricket pavilion.

Over the course of two excavations, experts - helped by a small army of volunteers - uncovered scores of treasures, including a bath-house central heating system, pottery, intricate jewellery, inscribed stonework and dozens of stunning Roman coins.

Local politicians spoke of their hope that the discovery could lead to a permanent Jorvik style exhibition similar that the one in York, significantly boosting tourism.

But at a meeting, Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover revealed that experts have expressed concern over the risk to such exhibits from flooding.

The bath-house site, west of Eden Bridge, sits on low-lying land just yards from the River Eden.

In response to a question by Stanwix Urban Carlisle city councillor Paul Nedved, Mr Glover said fears about the site were outlined at a recent meeting with officials from Historic England, the public body responsible for looking after the historic environment.

Mr Glover said an archaeologist from the organisation had said the fragile nature of the Roman finds and Carlisle's climate meant they would have to be enclosed in a climate-controlled building if they are displayed.

"An action of this meeting was to explore the feasibility of incorporating the reveal within the new pavilion proposed for the cricket club," he said.

Engineering and architectural conservation teams from Historic England visited the site in April and raised "significant concerns" about the location, said Mr Glover.

He continued: "If the remains of the bathhouse were displayed and subsequently flooded, this would require both pumping out of water and careful cleaning of the remains. This raises concerns - given the fragile nature of the remains - as to whether they would survive such an event."

This prompted the city council to investigate with Historic England whether the flood-risk could be incorporated into the design of the new cricket pavilion to safeguard the archaeology.

Mr Glover said: "We have been advised that the water inundation would be very difficult to prevent as the main likely source of [water] ingress would be seepage up through the ground, rendering potential mitigation solutions such as bunding or tanking ineffective."

Historic England said it would be difficult to protect the site's lower level Roman remains from future flooding.

Mr Glover said: "We don't want this to be the same disappointment we had with Castle Green, when Historic England said the best way to protect the Roman remains was to cover them up again.

"This is a more challenging site.

"But we are not going to just give up on this because it was such an exciting find. We want to be able to tell the story of Roman Carlisle in a stronger way."

Despite the setback, councillor Nedved refused to give up hope that the bath-house and its treasures can be used to tell the story of Roman Carlisle.

"We can't afford to let this opportunity go past," he told The Cumberland News.

"Having been down to the site, and having witnessed first hand what was there, we really were absolutely convinced that this was a serious opportunity to uncover those finds, and actually have something above ground to show to people.

"It was described as Premier League Roman archaeology. We all love Tullie House, but this is a wonderful opportunity to tell the story of Roman Carlisle.

"There have been so many lost opportunities to do that in the past. We have to have something above ground for people to go and visit.

"This site is critically important for the city of Carlisle and we have to capitalise on it.

"It can't be beyond the wit of man to find a solution.

"The view of all our Stanwix councillors is that we have to find a way to make this happen."

Mr Nedved's fellow councillor, Fiona Robson, who has a long-standing fascination for Carlisle's history, agreed. "I understand the concern about flooding, but I hope it's not the end of the road," she said.

"It would be disastrous if we lost such treasures through flooding.

"But that doesn't mean it can't happen elsewhere in the city.

"We need to see ourselves as the capital of the Borderlands and our history and heritage have to be a part of that. We have a rich history, going back millennia, and we need to celebrate that."

She suggested an exhibition site could be created on higher ground - possibly somewhere within the footprint of the prestigious Roman Petriana Fort, in Stanwix, which was the base for an elite cavalry unit whose soldiers used the bath-house.

Experts say the bath-house was probably their main meeting place. The 1,000-strong unit was the most feared fighting force on Hadrian’s Wall. The fort covered a huge area of what became Stanwix, including what became now St Michael's Church and its graveyard.

The Cricket Club dig uncovered major sections of the unit’s bath-house building, along with dozens of coins, an iron arrow head, pottery, bone hair pins, and painted tiles. Many artefacts are in a remarkable state of preservation.

The excavation also revealed a fantastically preserved inscription stone, paying fulsome tribute to Julia Domna, mother of the Roman Emperor Caracalla.

He was Emperor between AD 198 to 217, and the inscription – carved into a sandstone block - describes Domna as mother of the Most Holy Emperor, the Roman Army, and the Senate – a key institution of the Roman state.

“This site is highly significant,” said archaeologist Frank Giecco, whose firm Wardell Armstrong was given the task of leading the two digs at the site.