The Guisborough helmet was discovered on the 19th of August 1864 at Barnaby Grange farm, which is located near Windlebridge garden centre. It was found by members of the Cleveland Railway Company who had been carrying out maintenance on the road. The helmet itself was buried down in a bed of gravel in a carefully arranged folded position, distant from any other known Roman sites. It leaves a lot of speculation and mystery as to why it was buried here. The condition of the helmet was exceptionally good, given its age; dating back to the 3 rd century AD. It had no major dents, bruising or scratches aside from its hallmarks. Unfortunately, though it would have originally been fitted with two protective cheek plates, the holes from which they would have been attached can be seen in front of the ear guards, sadly they have not survived the test of time.
Forged from bronze, the helmet was clearly lavishly embossed with depictions of shrines to the Roman deities mostly associated with war, for instance: Mars and Minerva which can be seen across the brow band. The design is similar to other helmets found in Cumbria, Norfolk, and France and is one of only a handful of its own unique kind to be unearthed.
This type of headgear may have been used in battle; however, its decorations point more towards ceremonial use in parades or cavalry tournaments. In 1878, Frederick B Greenwood, who owned the land at the time the helmet was discovered, presented the
find to the British Museum where it was carefully restored and put-on display in room 49 of the Roman Britain Section, where it is still housed to this day. It has been theorized that the reason for its placement may have been as an offering or as a reminder of one’s service in combat. Either way, we will never be able to establish the reason for its final resting place. Historically this artefact just goes to show the sheer extent of the importance of our town and our local area’s rich history.
This article was written by Tom Smith.