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Anything related to Britain’s most celebrated naval hero is guaranteed to fire the public’s imagination but this substantial collection, belonging to descendants of Alexander Davison, Nelson’s banker, advisor and friend, will doubtless attract huge attention when it goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London on Trafalgar Day (October 21).

Pictured here is the piece which led to the collection’s rediscovery. When this diamond-set brooch was brought to one of Sotheby’s overseas offices for a routine valuation a year ago, the auctioneers’ jewellery director Martyn Downer looked at the anchor and H N initials and realised this was something special. The owners told Mr Downer that they were descended from Alexander Davison and suggested that documents at their house might help him research the jewel.

In an extraordinary day at their home they produced from trunks and deed boxes, letters, papers and objects with a direct link to Nelson, culminating in a bloodstained silk purse containing 21 gold coins which Nelson carried at the battle of Trafalgar. “You dream of such discoveries,” said Mr Downer of what was one of the most exciting moments of his career.

The brooch is estimated at £100,000-150,000 and the collection, which has been divided into around 100 lots, is expected to fetch in excess of £700,000.