Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Winston Churchill cigar under the hammer

Churchill cigar sells for 4,500

A half-smoked cigar, abandoned when Sir Winston Churchill dashed away to an urgent wartime Cabinet meeting, has gone on display ahead of its auction.

The ex-prime minister's cigar, picked up by a member of the 10 Downing Street staff 69 years ago, is being sold by Keys auctioneers in Aylsham, Norfolk.

The 9.5cm (3.74ins) cigar, embossed with the owner's name, is expected to fetch up to £350.

It can be viewed ahead of the auction on Friday.

Andrew Bullock, from the auctioneers, said he expected worldwide interest among collectors of Sir Winston Churchill memorabilia.

Iconic image

After picking up the stub, Downing Street valet Nellie Goble grabbed a sheet of 10 Downing Street notepaper and scribbled a note to a friend.

She wrote: "To Jack, with all good wishes from Nellie. Just a small souvenir to remind you at some future date of one of the greatest men that ever lived in England."

"Jack" treasured the letter and cigar until his death in 1987 when it passed to his daughter.

The woman, who wants to remain anonymous, has kept it wrapped in the note in a drawer at her north Norfolk home.

Mr Bullock said: "It is a collector's dream to own something that is so very, very scarce, or even unique.

"Anyone who collects Churchill memorabilia would really love to get their hands on something that no-one else in the world has got... and when it is something that relates so directly to the iconic image of the man it has added value."

In November, a butter dish used as an ashtray by Churchill at the London dining and debating club he co-founded was sold at Keys for £4,200, almost three times its estimate.

Mr Bullock said: "Apparently it was extremely rare for Churchill not to finish a cigar, so it must have been something very, very urgent that demanded his immediate attention in the cabinet room.

"As this was wartime, it is fascinating to speculate as to what it might have been that was so important."

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