AN ancient Roman artefact is set to return home for the first time in more than 200 years this summer.

The Ribchester Helmet will be displayed at the Roman museum in the Ribble Valley village from July, on loan from the British Museum.

The copper alloy cavalry helmet, complete with a face-mask visor, has previously been put on display in Leeds and London since the British Museum acquired it in 1814 after being discovered in 1796.

Decorated with a scene of a skirmish between infantry and cavalry, the helmet was found as part of the Ribchester Hoard and will be on show in the village until October.

A sphinx, which is believed to have been attached to the top of the helmet, had been lost before the discovery in 1796.

The helmet was worn by an elite trooper in ‘Hippika Gymnasia’ or cavalry sports events and was made in the late first century AD.

A replica has been housed at the 99-year-old museum in Ribchester, dedicated to the Romano-British history of Bremetenacum Veteranorum, the old Roman name for the settlement.

In addition to the helmet, the Ribchester Hoard included a number of patera (dishes), pieces of a vase and a bust of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and defence.

The items were buried in a hollow, about three metres below the surface, on some waste land by the side of a road leading to Ribchester church.

The Ribchester Museum has applied for a grant from Ribble Valley Borough Council to help cover the costs of housing the artefact from July to October.

They have calculated that the costs including the display case, additional security and display panels will be around £70,000.

The helmet, which is one of only three Roman helmets with a covering over the face to have been found in Britain, was voted Britain's ‘second best Roman find’, behind the Vindolanda tablets, in a website poll by the Channel 4 television programme Time Team.

Tom Pridmore, tourism and events officer at Ribble Valley Borough Council, said: “The helmet is one of the finest of its kind in the world and, whilst the museum has a copy for educational purposes, to have the real thing is quite a coup.

“I know the museum curator and his team have worked hard to secure its return for this year and we anticipate huge interest from local people, as well as visitors to the area.

“This is a fantastic way mark to the centenary of this popular museum.”