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Held across two days on January 30-31, the sale totalled just over £300,000 with 80% sold from 1116 lots. A country house near Tetbury yielded several eagerly contested lots, including two marine paintings unseen on the market for at least 60 years.

An unsigned and grimy 23in x 2ft 11in (59 x 90cm) oil on canvas of three warships in Portsmouth Harbour sold for £15,500 against a £2000-3000 estimate.

The auction house believes the painting is comparable to works by the late 18th century marine painter Thomas Elliot (active 1790-1800). However, without a signature, it was catalogued as ‘circle of’ the artist. “With hindsight, looking at the price it achieved, a couple of people may think it is the real thing,” said Chorley’s director and auctioneer, Thomas Jenner-Fust.

Racing off Ryde

The other marine work was a 19in x 2ft 6in (48 x 77cm) oil on canvas of a racing schooner off Ryde, this time bearing the signature of Isle of Wight painter Arthur Fowles (c.1815-83). Fowles painted sailing vessels of all sizes, but is considered at his best when portraying yachts. This example sold to an international buyer at £3200 against a £1500-2000 guide.

His most sought-after paintings depict the Cambria, a schooner yacht that won the Ryde Town Cup in 1869. One such depiction sold for £32,000 at Christie’s South Kensington in April 1993, a sum that appears to have been unsurpassed since then, according to the Blouin Art Sales Index.

Fowles died tragically in 1883 when his six-year old son handled a loaded gun left by a local mariner, which went off, killing the artist instantly.