SIR Winston Churchill’s prized cigar case that still contains two unsmoked cigars will be going under the hammer in Dorchester – for £10,000.

The Art Deco style finely crafted rosewood box was uncovered during a routine valuation at a Devon country house.

Auctioneer Julian Smith had been invited to look at a pocket watch and wristwatch the elderly owners were planning to sell.

But his attention was drawn to the cigar case on the shelf in the lounge of their home which overlooks the sea.

When Mr Smith commented on it, they replied: “That’s not just a cigar box, it was once owned by Winston Churchill.”

He opened it to find the inside of the lid stamped with the emblem of premier Cuban cigar makers ‘Montecristo Habana’ and the name ‘The Hon. Winston Churchill’ written below it.

In the box there was a mother of pearl penknife inscribed ‘Winston L S Churchill’ which he is likely to have used to trim the end of his cigars.

The two cigars inside were still in their original cases.

One, by Santa Maria, Havana, is dedicated to ‘The Right Honourable Winston Churchill’.

The label on the cigar bears an image of Churchill.

The other, made by Danish tobacco company A.M Hirschserung Sonner, was seemingly a gift to him in 1950 by the University of Copenhagen.

Its label on it reads ‘La Corona’ and ‘Winston Churchill’.

The 5ins by 15ins box is believed to have been given as a gift by Churchill to his personal valet Norman McGowan.

The vendor bought it from a London dealer 15 years ago as a gift for her father.

When he passed away and left it in his will for her and her husband and they are now selling it with Duke’s Auctioneers of Dorchester, Dorset.

They are in the process of selling their house and having a clear out of items which prompted them to ask Mr Smith to value some of their relics.

Mr Smith said: “I went along to the country house to value a wrist watch and pocket watch but when I was in the front room (lounge) I spotted the cigar case on the shelf.

“When they told me it belonged to Churchill I thought ‘crikey, that’s fantastic’.

“The vendor bought it for her father as a gift 15 years ago but he has since died and left it for her husband.

“They are selling it now as they are downsizing.”

Guy Schwinge, partner at Duke’s, said: “This really is an incredible find. Churchill is probably the most famous cigar smoker of the 20th century.

“He rarely was depicted without a cigar in hand, and the fact that he gave this box to his personal valet gives it even greater resonance.

“It is incredibly difficult to value a unique object like this but it would not surprise me if our estimate of between £5,000 to £10,000 ended up looking rather parsimonious.

“After all, Churchill’s discarded cigar butts have been known to fetch thousands!”

The sale takes place tomorrow.

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