Vincent Thurkettle has discovered Britain's biggest gold nugget - worth £50,000 - close to the shipwreck of the Royal Charter off Anglesey, North Wales.


For years, gold prospector, Vincent Thurkettle searched for the treasure from the Royal Charter.

The steam clipper was wrecked during a hurricane in October 1859 at Porth Helaeth, next to the little village of Moelfre in Anglesey, North Wales.

The ship was on the last leg of its journey from Australia to Liverpool.

On board were around 375 passengers, including miners from the Australian gold fields carrying their precious finds home.

The value of the gold on the Royal Charter was estimated at the time as more than £320,000. It would be worth millions of pounds today.

The Royal Charter sank off Anglesey in 1859.

The Royal Charter had many miners among its passengers, who were returning from Australia with gold. Credit: Anglesey History/Twitter.


Although a lot of the precious metal was salvaged by Victorian divers, Vincent Thurkettle was convinced there was still treasure to be discovered and started his search.

He then discovered the 3oz nugget on the seabed in 2012, around 40 metres from the wreck. He kept the find a secret until recently, when he had completed an exhaustive search for any more gold in the area.

“The sun was out so the gold was gleaming and because it was under water it was magnified, so it looked huge. 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,” Thurkettle told the Eastern Daily Press.

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

The Receiver of Wreck has been notified about the find because of its proximity to the Royal Charter. It is now the property of the Crown, although Thurkettle is expecting a finder’s fee. Eventually it will go on display in a museum.

The Carnon Nugget found in Cornwall in 1808 is now the second biggest nugget, weighing 2.08oz. The Rutherford Nugget is third. Weighing 2.04oz, it was found in Scotland in 1869.

Memorial to the victims of The Royal Charter

A memorial to the victims of The Royal Charter in the churchyard of St Gallgo’s Church, Llanallgo. Credit Anglesey Sights/Twitter.


The sinking of the Royal Charter was a media sensation at the time; Charles Dickens reported on it in his journal, All the Year Round.

Of the 375 passengers and 112 crew on board, only around 40 survived. Many were buried in the local church of Llanallgo, and a memorial was erected in their memory. One of the anchors from the ship was also preserved.

One of the anchors from the Royal Charter

One of the anchors from the Royal Charter. Credit Anglesey Sights/Twitter


The hurricane of 25-26 October 1859 also claimed many other ships around the UK; a total of 133 were shipwrecked, with the loss of over 800 lives. The storm was considered one of the worst of the 19th century, and become known as the Royal Charter Storm.

The tragedy led to improvements in weather forecasting and the Meteorological Office, which had only been established in 1854. Captain Robert FitzRoy, who was in charge of the office at the time, brought in the first gale warning service to prevent similar tragedies.