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Miller’s case dating from the 1870s, with items ranging from compass, barometer, drawing set, thermometer, quill cutter, nib cleaner and a guide to postal rates to India, was lacking an element of self-defence.

On the face of it, the 19th century writing box estimated at £3000-5000 in the Dominic Winter auction in South Cerney, Gloucestershire, is rather normal. But a secret drawer reveals a mid-19th century French officer's pistol and accessories, the pistol engraved with the name of a captain and dated November 1856. The vendor is a collector who is ‘thinning out’ his collection

More pistols

The guns section of the DW specialist Arms, Medals & Militaria auction includes two pairs of 18th century Queen Anne cannon barrel pistols. One pair is by the famous gunsmith J Johnson of Wigan and has a silver plaque engraved with the crest of the Blazon Family of Winstanley Hall, Wigan (estimate £3000-4000). From the same estate is an unusual four-barrel flintlock pistol by Isaac Riviere (estimate £1200-1500).

Also, a cased pair of flintlock duelling pistols by William Parker c.1815 are presented in their mahogany case with original gunsmith label and accessories. Parker was gun maker to the Duke of Kent, Prince Edward and Kind William IV and this pair is estimated at £12,000-15,000.

Antique pistols have been strong sellers at auction recently. Dominic Winter specialist Henry Meadows says it is “a rising market particularly for good ones and cased pistols. There are an awful lot of private collectors, firms and private investors buying the top-end pieces such by makers such as Durs Egg, Mortimer, Manton etc.”

Five-figure travel case

The Asprey travelling compendium offered at Charles Miller on May 1 at the auctions ‘hub’ of 25 Blythe Road in west London sold for a mid-estimate £13,500.