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But at J.P. Humbert's sale in Towcester, Northamptonshire on July 24, interest from as far afield as the US, Australia and South Africa saw the settee, estimated at a mere £50-80, taken up to a final £7500 plus 15 per cent buyer's premium.

Although in lamentable condition, the late 19th century leather button-back settee was believed to have been Winston Churchill's private lounger, kept in his Whitehall offices during his second spell as Prime Minister.

After leaving office, Churchill gave it to a friend who passed it on to the current vendor.

The auctioneers reported 12 commission bids already on the book before the sale and seven interested parties on the telephone on the day.

Bidding started at £800 and it was finally knocked down to a UK national living in South Africa. The purchaser has now asked J.P. Humbert to oversee its sensitive restoration.