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Norfolk prospector finds Britain’s biggest ever gold nugget near shipwreck

PUBLISHED: 17:29 10 May 2016 | UPDATED: 14:33 11 May 2016

Picture shows Britain's biggest ever gold nugget (next to a 5p coin) which  Vincent Thurkettle  found off the coast of Wales, worth an estimated £50,000 and the size of a small chicken's. Photo by Geoff Robinson Photography.

Picture shows Britain's biggest ever gold nugget (next to a 5p coin) which Vincent Thurkettle found off the coast of Wales, worth an estimated £50,000 and the size of a small chicken's. Photo by Geoff Robinson Photography.

GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY.

The British coast brims with hidden treasures - but none so gleaming as this.

Picture shows Britain's biggest ever gold nugget (next to a 5p coin) which Vincent Thurkettle  found off the coast of Wales, worth an estimated £50,000. Photo by Geoff Robinson Photography.Picture shows Britain's biggest ever gold nugget (next to a 5p coin) which Vincent Thurkettle found off the coast of Wales, worth an estimated £50,000. Photo by Geoff Robinson Photography.

A prospector from Norfolk has found Britain’s biggest ever gold nugget, while scouring the waters just off the shore of Anglesey, north Wales.

The item - worth an estimated £50,000 - is believed to part of a £120 million haul of riches from the Australian gold rush lost in a shipwreck in the waters in 1859.

Vince Thurkettle, 60, who lives near Thetford, spent seven years searching for the cargo of the Royal Charter before he uncovered the nugget - which weighs 97.12g (3oz) - in around five metres of water. The prospector said he was “absolutely stunned” when he first spotted gleaming in a crevice on the sea bed.

“The sun was out so the gold was gleaming and because it was under water it was magnified, so it looked huge,” he said.

“I was really only expecting to find gold dust so I couldn’t believe it when I realised it was a huge nugget. It was a magical moment.

“I didn’t want to touch it at first, just to savour the extraordinary moment and burn into my memory how beautiful it looked.”

The item is almost twice as heavy as the UK’s second biggest nugget, which was found in Cornwall in 1808 and weighed 59g.

Mr Thurkettle made the extraordinary find in 2012, but kept it secret until this week, so he could continue his searches in the area. Over the course of several years, he has spend around six weeks each summer looking for gold with a team of family and friends.

He found the nugget around five metres from the shore, and about 40 metres from the Royal Charter shipwreck. When he made the discovery, storms had taken away about two metres of sand which normally cover the site, exposing parts of the sea bed which had been hidden for decades.

He added: “I’ve spent 39 years prospecting and I have handled a lot of gold nuggets, but I never thought I would find such a large one myself.”

As the nugget was found close to a shipwreck Mr Thurkettle had to notify the Receiver of Wreck and the piece is now property of the Crown.

It will eventually go on display in a museum and Mr Thurkettle expects to receive a finder’s fee, but he believes the nugget could fetch as much as £50,000 if it were auctioned.

He added: “It has broken my heart to part with the nugget, but I think it’s important that it ends up in a museum for everyone to see.

“It just goes to prove that if you go out and about in the British countryside and get stuck in you can still make spectacular discoveries.”

•Have you made an exciting discovery? Email bethany.whymark@archant.co.uk.

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