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Discovered by the auctioneers during a routine valuation at a West Sussex residence, the private vendor had purchased the picture some 30 years ago from a London saleroom and was unaware of the current value of the picture, agreeing to enter it into sale. Needless to say the auctioneers were “touched” when the vendor chose not to take the picture to a London auction house.

In wholly original condition and with the Lefevre Gallery, Lowry’s agent in London, paper label to the reverse, Old houses is typical of Lowry’s work. Depicting large buildings, identified by a reader of the Antiques Trade Gazette after spotting it in an advertisement as those of Arden Farm in the Manchester area, and a handful of characteristic matchstick men, the picture, signed and dated 1950, had been given a pre-sale estimate of £40,000-60,000 which was to be eclipsed following a fierce bidding battle.

The bidding opened at £30,000 and was contested by three potentials up to £60,000 whereupon two of the bidders dropped away leaving a local private bidding via a mobile phone from the golf course to place a further £80,000.

However, the hammer was not to fall yet with a new anonymous telephone bidder entering the race and eventually taking the prize at £98,000.