Roman helmet found in field sells for £2.3m

A Roman helmet unearthed found in a Cumbrian field by a metal detector enthusiast sold for £2.3 million today - almost eight times the estimated price.

But the colossal price caused disappointment for a Carlisle museum which has spent weeks frantically trying to raise funds to ensure the "exceptional" artefact remains in the UK for public display.



The Crosby Garrett Helmet, named after the village near which it was found, sold for £2,281,250 at Christie's South Kensington.



It was bought by an anonymous bidder and it is unclear what will now happen to the bronze discovery, although it will have made its unnamed finder very wealthy.



The buyer may plan to keep it in a private collection or even apply to take it overseas, although such a move could cause the Government to step in and impose an export bar. This would allow time to try to match price and retain it within the UK.



Six bidders were in the running at the London sale, pushing the price steeply from its original £200,000-£300,000 estimate past the £2 million mark.



The helmet - one of only three such items to be found - is almost 2,000 years old and was bought anonymously.



It was found in May 2010 and is thought to date from the late 1st to 2nd century AD. It would have been used for show in a sporting event rather than protection in combat.



The helmet was billed by experts as "an extraordinary example of Roman metalwork at its zenith".



Only two other Roman cavalry parade helmets have been discovered in Britain complete with face masks. The Ribchester Helmet was found in 1796 and is held by the British Museum, while the Newstead Helmet was found around 1905 and is kept at the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.



Georgiana Aitken, head of antiquities at Christie's, London, said: "When the helmet was first brought to Christie's and I saw it first hand, I could scarcely believe my eyes.



"This is an exceptional object - an extraordinary and haunting face from the past - and it has captured the imagination and the enthusiasm of everyone who has come to Christie's to admire it over the past few weeks."



She said antiquity collectors competed with bidders who were more used to investing in modern art and old masters.



The winning bid, she said, was made by phone.



The finder is from the North East of England and in his 20s. The helmet was not covered by treasure law, which only applies to bronze objects found in hoards.



If it had been covered, the British Museum would have automatically been given an opportunity to acquire it, compensating the finder and landowner.



The mask would originally have had a white-metal, silver-like polished surface, contrasting with the bronze of the cap and sculpted hair design.



Thwarted bidders included Tullie House in Carlisle which has been frantically fundraising in the past few weeks to buy the helmet. It had already secured £1 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a further award from the Art Fund.



The Tullie House museum's appeal also drew donations of more than £50,000 from members of the public and an anonymous benefactor had pledged to match donations from the community.



Representatives said they were "very disappointed" today.



If the winning bidder wants to take the item overseas, they would have to apply for an export licence, at which stage a temporary export bar could be granted. This would allow time for funds to be raised to match the price and retain it for the nation.



Many of those who had worked on the failed Tullie House bid hoped a potential export bar could at least ensure the helmet is not lost entirely.



Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: "It is a great shame that, so close to the mark and with such great public support, Tullie House has been unable to secure the Roman helmet.



"We now hope that the export system will be able to kick into action, allowing the museum another opportunity to acquire this remarkable work."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones