Advertisement

Excavation looks to solve mystery of King John's lost treasure after 800 years

View from King John Bank across the landscape near Walpole Marsh which may be the site of King John's missing treasure. Photo released March 24 2024. A dig in Norfolk may be about to uncover the mystery of King John’s treasure which was submerged by the tides some 800 years ago. The monarch's treasure disappeared into Wash Bay in Norfolk in 1216, after an ill-fated trip saw transporting wagons submerged in the bay. However, a newly announced excavation potentially paves the way for the lost treasures to be found. The excavation was a precondition for the granting of planning permission for a new solar farm development in an area which historians and archaeologists believe is the likely location of the monarch's lost riches.
A dig in Norfolk may be about to uncover the mystery of King John's treasure which was submerged by the tides some 800 years ago. (SWNS)

An archaeological dig in Norfolk could solve the mystery of King John’s treasure which was lost to the tide some 800 years ago and has never been found.

The treasure belonging to the monarch, including the crown jewels, disappeared into Wash Bay in Norfolk in 1216 after the wagons carrying it were submerged in the bay.

Now, a newly-announced excavation in the area could pave the way for the lost treasure to be found.

The excavation is being carried out as part of a condition of the granting of planning permission for a new solar farm development in the area where historians and archaeologists believe the monarch's lost riches could be hidden.

Clive Bond, chairman of the West Norfolk and King's Lynn Archaeological Society (WNKLAS), which is conducting the dig, said: "When you're looking at something this big it's quite exciting. There could be something there, absolutely, but actually getting to where it's been deposited in a changing, dynamic river system - you're looking a million to one.

"They will find stuff, that's medieval and post-medieval but I suspect the problem here is you'd need an intervention that would go deep."

The plans for a solar farm which could lead to the discovery of King John's missing treasure. Photo released March 24 2024. A dig in Norfolk may be about to uncover the mystery of King John’s treasure which was submerged by the tides some 800 years ago. The monarch's treasure disappeared into Wash Bay in Norfolk in 1216, after an ill-fated trip saw transporting wagons submerged in the bay. However, a newly announced excavation potentially paves the way for the lost treasures to be found. The excavation was a precondition for the granting of planning permission for a new solar farm development in an area which historians and archaeologists believe is the likely location of the monarch's lost riches.
The plans for a solar farm which could lead to the discovery of King John's missing treasure. (SWNS)

The story dates back to 12 October, 1216, when King John and his entourage left King's Lynn heading for Lincoln. The king rode on ahead, leaving carts carrying his worldly wealth, including the crown jewels, silver plates, golden goblets and gold coins following behind.

But while the monarch made it across the Wash to the west of Lynn, the rest of his party were engulfed by the incoming tide and lost in the rushing waters. Searches for the missing treasure proved fruitless, and King John died of dysentery in Newark on 18 October, aged 49.

The exact location of the disaster is still unknown and much of what was then part of an estuary and salt marsh has been reclaimed over the centuries for farming, with any treasure believed to be at least 5m below the surface.

The most likely location is believed to be somewhere between Walpole Cross Keys and Sutton Bridge – the spot where works are soon to start on the new solar farm.

'Nothing's ever been found'

Developer Enso Green Holdings was originally turned down by West Norfolk Council in its bid to put panels on 200 acres of farmland at Walpole Marsh but it won a planning appeal in 2022. Now archaeological consultants acting for the green power firm have drawn up plans for a survey of the site, which are a precondition for the plans being given the go-ahead by the council.

Some 20 trenches will be dug in different areas. Geophysical surveys have revealed former watercourses from when the site was a tidal marsh.

It is not the first time that attempts have been made to locate the treasure. In 2016 WNKLAS carried out a dig at nearby Tydd St Giles and found medieval material including administrative seals and iron nails.

But local King's Lynn historian Dr Paul Richards is sceptical as to whether the latest dig will have any success, saying: "Nothing's ever been found. The thing is, he wouldn't have been carrying much treasure as he'd spent most of it on fighting.

"No regalia has ever been found after his death – he probably flogged it to fight the barons, the French, he must have spent a lot of money."

King's Lynn historian Dr Paul Richards. Photo released March 24 2024.  A dig in Norfolk may be about to uncover the mystery of King John’s treasure which was submerged by the tides some 800 years ago. The monarch's treasure disappeared into Wash Bay in Norfolk in 1216, after an ill-fated trip saw transporting wagons submerged in the bay. However, a newly announced excavation potentially paves the way for the lost treasures to be found. The excavation was a precondition for the granting of planning permission for a new solar farm development in an area which historians and archaeologists believe is the likely location of the monarch's lost riches.
King's Lynn historian Dr Paul Richards is sceptical as to whether the hunt will turn up any treasure. (SWNS)

How Richard III was found under a car park after 520-plus years

It's not unknown for historical remains to be found on sites of development.

In 2012 a skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park was confirmed as that of King Richard III, after experts found that DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch's family.

After the discovery, lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, said the bones had been subjected to "rigorous academic study" and had been carbon dated to a period from 1455-1540.

Richard was killed in battle in 1485 aged 32. His skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal. He was later reinterred at Leicester Cathedral.

Read more