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Fisherman nets 300-year-old mystery pot

PUBLISHED: 12:33 27 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:29 05 July 2010

IT IS the world famous ship that caught fire and sunk in a historic battle off the north Suffolk coast and now a Southwold fisherman may have unearthed a relic from the wreck of the Royal James.

IT IS the world famous ship that caught fire and sunk in a historic battle off the north Suffolk coast and now a Southwold fisherman may have unearthed a relic from the wreck of the Royal James.

While the origin of the ceramic artefact found by Paul Klyne remains a mystery, George Spence, director of the wreck recovery, said it was highly probable it was once used on the warship, which is now one of the biggest targets for people hunting wrecks.

“It's a really nice piece, very interesting and very rare,” said Mr Spence.

“It is at least 300 years old and there's a very good chance that it's from the Royal James. These would have been common on board and could have been used to hold ale. The fact that it's all still intact is amazing.”

Mr Spence has been working on the wreck for 21 years, as well as other projects all over the world. The Royal James was sunk by the Dutch at the battle of Sole Bay, near Southwold, in 1672 and she was the first ever ship to have a matching set of bronze canons.

The diving team, who are based in Lowestoft, have already recovered glass, human bones and canon balls. While the ship is mostly famed for its design, there would also have been treasures on board such as personal possessions of the Earl of Sandwich, who was the admiral, and silverware used by Samuel Pepys.

Mr Spence and his team dive every day they can and are currently getting into the timbers of the wreck. They cannot see anything underwater and rely on touch.

“Richard Branson, Lord and Lady Rothchild and the Guinness family have all been involved. Richard Branson funded the first stage of the excavation,” added Mr Spence.

Fisherman Mr Klyne initially thought the artefact was broken, but has been advised that it was made that way.

“In 20 years fishing this is the first time something like this has happened,” he said. “We thought it was a large fish, but as it got nearer to the surface we realised it was some sort of artefact or vase. It was pure luck that it got to the surface.”

The artefact has a symbol which looks like a number three and a wheel or star.

Mr Klyne added: “It's had a lot of interest and there is a strong possibility it came from the Royal James.

“This is all speculative but we are hoping that readers will have some suggestions for what it was used for and exactly how old it is.”

If you know anything about the artefact, email paul_sam.klyne@tiscali.co.uk

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