Oak Island treasure hunter on a mysterious quest for Royal gold

King John
King John

A TV treasure hunter from Lincolnshire is on a quest to find Royal jewels lost in the muds of The Wash 800 years ago.

Professional metal detectorist Gary Drayton hopes to finally discover King John’s crown jewels which disappeared in 1216 when his baggage train encountered trouble en-route from King’s Lynn to Swineshead Abbey.

A potential crossing point for King Johns baggage train carrying the crown jewels? This was the area Mr Drayton searched during an episode of the Travel Channel show Expedition Unknown.

A potential crossing point for King Johns baggage train carrying the crown jewels? This was the area Mr Drayton searched during an episode of the Travel Channel show Expedition Unknown.

And with previous treasure-hunting successes seeing him unearth an historically-important Knights Templar coin near the legendary ‘money pit’ on Oak Island and an Inca gold ring on a Florida beach - perhaps Gary is the man for the job.

“I have found over one million dollars worth of treasure in the US between Spanish treasure rings and coins, modern Rolex watches and diamond rings,” he said. “But King John’s crown jewels would be the ‘Holy Grail’ of treasure finds to me. And of course, a Lincolnshire treasure hunter solving the mystery would be a fitting end.”

Originally from Spilsby, but now living in Florida, Gary has appeared on several primetime US TV shows in recent years, including the History Channel’s Curse of Oak Island, and the Travel Channel shows Expedition Unknown and Legend Hunters.

His last visit to the UK saw him waist-deep in water at the Wash while taking part in an episode of Expedition Unknown called ‘England’s Vanished Crown Jewels’. During filming he helped TV host Josh Gates uncover a medieval carved seal featuring England’s three lions, an ornate metal purse clasp, an old silver coin and an animal trap.

The carved seal featuring England's 3 lions

The carved seal featuring England's 3 lions

Speaking to The Standard, Gary admits he has an idea where the treasure could be - a site he located as the possible crossing point for King John’s treasure-laden caravan.

“For years I studied the Fens and the probable crossing points in the Wash where a fortune in jewels met a watery demise in estuary quicksands,” he said. The royal caravan was caught out by highly-unpredictable wash tides somewhere in between present day Kings Lynn and Boston.

“My guess is the jewels were lost in the mud near Sutton Bridge, which would have been much closer to the sea back in the year 1216.

“Although I have not yet had any success locating the crown jewels, I have found coins and artefacts from the early 1200s at a couple of potential crossing points.”

An Anglo-Saxon coin and metal purse clasp with ornate 'face' detailing - which Mr Drayton dated them to the King John era.

An Anglo-Saxon coin and metal purse clasp with ornate 'face' detailing - which Mr Drayton dated them to the King John era.

The village of Swineshead has an important part in the story of King John and the loss of the crown jewels. It was at Swineshead Abbey in late 1216 where King John suddenly took ill, dying of dysentery a short time later.

“This was the most interesting part of the lost crown jewels story to me, as a large heavily guarded royal baggage train would have certainly made camp around the Abbey,” said Gary. “More research led me to discover the probable area the royal caravan camped while the King stayed at Swineshead Abbey.

“I keep the location of the camp a closely-guarded secret, as loose lips sink ships, but I am hoping to make the property owner and myself very rich one of these days.”

Finding the King’s treasure has been described by some archaeologists as like ‘looking for a needle in a haystack’ due to the topography of the vast Wash area having changed over the centuries - with much of the wetland having been reclaimed during the last 800 years.

Gary Drayton with an old metal trap he found while searching at The Wash.

Gary Drayton with an old metal trap he found while searching at The Wash.

But Gary is confident he has now pinpointed the right area to continue his search.

“This summer my quest to find the lost treasure continues, using new information discovered,” said Gary. “I’m hoping new light detection and ranging (Lidar) technology and good, old-fashioned boots on the ground can help me to finally recover one of England’s greatest treasures.

“Between the royal baggage train encampment and the airplane Lidar readouts on two estuary crossings I know I am getting closer than ever to finding gold in the Fens. So it’s time to charge the metal detector batteries, crank up the river dredge and hunt for the king’s treasure.”

A medieval silver coin found at The Wash site by Mr Drayton.

A medieval silver coin found at The Wash site by Mr Drayton.

A 1604 King James I coin found by Mr Drayton at The Wash site.

A 1604 King James I coin found by Mr Drayton at The Wash site.