Clive of India's gold comes up for sale after legal settlement

The gold hoard of Clive of India, lost in a shipwreck off South Africa in 1755, has finally come to the surface and will be sold in London next month.

The gold hoard of Clive of India, lost in a shipwreck off South Africa in 1755, has finally come to the surface and will be sold in London next month.

The hoard of 830 coins, worth about £3,000 at the time, is expected to fetch about £350,000 when it is auctioned at Spink on 28 September. The treasure was found by two scuba divers, but its discovery resulted a legal challenge in South Africa in 1997.

Mark Rasmussen, one of Spink's coin specialists, said yesterday: "The divers didn't want to reveal the exact site of the discovery because it was in international waters and would compromise further research in the area. But South Africa claimed strongly that the treasure was stolen from Bird Island, which is inside their territorial waters off Port Elizabeth."

The dispute ended in an out-of-court settlement. The gold coins on offer are a mixture of Portuguese and Brazilian issues, an international currency at the time, minted between 1727 and 1754.

Robert Clive, then 29, had already laid the foundations of British power in India. The soldier and administrator was on home leave in 1754, and set out from Dover for a second tour of duty aboard the Stretham. His chest of coins was on board the Doddington, a much faster vessel in the five-ship convoy, which reached the Cape of Good Hope ahead of the others.

The Doddington met heavy weather, ran on to rocks off Bird Island in Algoa Bay, and was smashed to pieces within 20 minutes. Only 23 of the 270 passengers and crew survived. Clive, unaware of the tragedy, sailed on to Bombay.

The Doddington was also carrying silver and plate, some of which was washed ashore and squabbled over by the survivors. But the gold remained lost until its discovery by the two divers.

The sale prices for individual coins are expected to be between £350 and £6,000.

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