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Auctioneer David Brookes came across them when conducting a deceased estate house-clearance and said: “I had never seen their likes before and couldn’t find anything similar when I did my researches later.”

Standing 6ft 9in (2.06m) tall, the figures wore Conquistador-style helmets but carried Herculean clubs and wore animal skin clothing. The detachable plinths were carved with animal masks, seated figures and heraldic crests. They evoked huge interest from the minute the catalogue went online, with various suggestions as to their origins.

“The later consensus is that they were Black Forest works, which was my original belief,” said Brookes. “The wood had been stained to give an appearance of bronze but the figures were quite light, probably linden wood.

“They had been in the family for about 70 years and possibly bought after the First World War when many large estates were being broken up.”

Brookes put an estimate of £3000-5000 on the figures. He added: “I thought they were wonderful but wondered how many people would share my opinion.” In the event, many did – most being UK bidders, among whom was the dealer buying for a client who bid a winning £19,500.

“I wouldn’t have been too surprised if they’d made £30,000,” said the auctioneer, but the vendors, naturally, were delighted with the result.