HE has been thrown in jail and violently robbed in his epic quests to research Sir Francis Drake's past, but a Burnham man has unearthed his most startling discovery yet about the legendary explorer.

Former teacher Michael Turner, 55, spent time in prison in Guatemala and Guinea and has been robbed at gunpoint in Colombia, Panama and Brazil during his Drake expeditions.

He has published three Drake biographies and a fourth is pending, and he has recently returned from Chile, Peru and Ecuador, where he retraced Drake's 2,700-mile world voyage of 1577-80.

But his investigations closer to home have revealed Drake and his former wife Elizabeth Sydenham's historical ties a few miles away in Bridgwater.

He said: “I wondered why the Drakes were in Bridgwater and found recent studies of the first road maps of England which show Bridgwater was on the London to Barnstaple road and the Sydenhams of Monksilver lived within a mile of this road.

“This proves Drake passed through Bridgwater many times between 1583 and 1595 en route from his house in London and court business to his in-laws' home.”

Michael was thrilled to learn on one visit in December 1589, when Drake had a slipped disc, he arrived in Bridgwater via the Polden ridge from where he looked over his home towns of Burnham and Highbridge.

Drake's local links extend further because in 1588 Bridgwater supplied a ship called The William to augment his western squadron at Plymouth to fight the Spanish Armada.

Last Friday Michael shared his amazing discoveries at a lecture in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.