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Malacca cane with hammer handle – £190 at Clarks.

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Consigned by his actress widow Michele Dotrice, who lives locally, it included swordsticks and other canes with concealed accoutrements perhaps appealing to an actor who found TV fame in the ’60s and ’70s as the spook Callan.

The provenance undoubtedly enhanced interest in a field already popular with online buyers, said auctioneer Paul Clark.

Top-seller from the Woodward collection at the New Year’s Day auction was a 3ft 1in (94cm) long malacca cane with a double-bladed sword and a hammer handle which took £190. It tripled expectations, as did a 2ft 9½in (63cm) long Japanese bamboo example with chased blade which went to another private buyer at £140.

Titanic price boost

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Cosmo Duff-Gordon malacca cane – £7400 at Clarks.

From a different source came a Briggs of London malacca cane with a London 1904, 12.5ct gold knop inscribed Cosmo Duff-Gordon Travellers Club. Duff-Gordon’s claim to fame, or infamy, was that he survived the sinking of the Titanic.

Accusations, stoutly denied, were made that he had jumped the queue of women and children to join his wife in a lifeboat and bribed the oarsman to row the half-empty boat away from the scene without hanging around to pick up other survivors.

Any connection, noble or ignoble, to the Titanic puts a huge premium on any artefacts, so faking is now a problem, noted Clarks.

However, a letter showed that before his death in 1931 Duff-Gordon had given the stick to his housekeeper, Isabella Whale – the vendor’s great-grandmother.

This was proof enough for a Titanic specialist bidding for a client and the stick, pitched at £300-500, sold at £7400.