A SCULPTURE bought for just £50 went under the hammer for £11,000 at auction in Dorchester.

The onyx sculpture by late Dorset artist Mary Spencer Watson attracted a bidding war went it went up for sale at Duke's auctioneers in the county town.

The auction attracted plenty of interest for a range of rare items, with a packed saleroom as well as plenty of activity on the phones and internet from around the world.

The Watson sculpture was bought at a recent auction in Somerset for just £50 and was later identified as an important work by the artist who grew up near Swanage.

It went on to sell for more than 20 times that price at the auction.

A rare painting discovered under an old table top that is believed to be a maritime study painted for George III in the 18th Century also smashed its estimate of £200 to £400 to sell for £2,200 to a phone bidder.

The work was discovered by Matthew Denney from Duke's as he carried out a routine home visit.

Another painting to excite the bidders was a portrait of Sir Winston Churchill by Ernest Wallcousins, which sold for a hammer price of £19,000.

There was disappointment though as a 'lost' oil painting by Sir Stanley Spencer that was expected to fetch up to £400,000 failed to sell at the auction.

The work entitled 'Potato Patch, Rostrevor' had been bought soon after it was painted in the early 1950s for just £170.

The sale also included a collection of Jurassic Coast fossils, many of which came from Burton Bradstock, which also attracted plenty of bids.

One of the more surprising lots saw a sheet metal weather vane in the shape of a greyhound, which was expected to sell for between £200 and £400, go under the hammer for £3,600.

Duke's auctioneer Garry Batt said he was pleased with the day as a whole.

He said: “We had lots of people and there was lots of lively bidding across the board, particularly for good paintings.

“I'm very satisfied with the overall result.”