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Deal resident's windfall after finding valuable paintings in parent's attic

By Eleanor Perkins

Michael Allsopp, 54, of Davis Avenue, is a self-employed gardener but for more than a year he has also been caring for his parents – mainly his late father, who was suffering from dementia.

The two paintings sold for £4,500

The two paintings sold for £4,500

He was helping them clear out their home before downsizing when he uncovered two "ugly" paintings of racing pigeons dating back to the 1920s, which previously belonged to his grandparents.

Curious, he researched their potential worth and contacted Christie’s in London but the auctioneer was not interested.

But about a week later he was contacted by a different expert who was interested, quoting a possible value of £2,000.

To his disbelief, the oil paintings fetched more than double that amount, with the funds arriving just in time to help pay for his father’s funeral.

He’s now encouraging others to check out what’s lurking in their lofts.

He said: “The paintings originally belonged to my grandfather, Reginald Flint, and nan, Ivy-May Chalk.

One of the pigeon paintings

One of the pigeon paintings

“When my nan passed away about 30 years ago, my mum and uncle were asked if there was anything they’d like to keep and they chose the paintings.

“But they were so big and ugly, it was thought they weren't suitable for a modern house so they were put in the loft.

“It was my intuition, I suppose, that made me look into how much they were worth.

“If I hadn’t been caring for my parents then they may well have ended up in a local charity shop.”

When researching the paintings, Mr Allsopp, who runs MA Gardening Services, thought they could have been worth around £500.

He said: “I learnt that the artist, Edward Henry Windred, was a barber in New Cross in London who would paint racing pigeons.

Gardener Michael Allsopp

Gardener Michael Allsopp

“A lot of young men in the 1920s did pigeon racing. EH Windred would draw the bird, remember their markings and paint them against a landscape background.

“Similar works went for about £500. Two of his paintings which are quite famous are of carrier pigeons from the First World War.”

The dad-of-three was initially told by Christie’s that the items were not within their threshold.

When that changed, he enlisted the help of his brother-in-law, John Bulman, who transported the pictures to the auction house, where they sold for £4,500.

He said: “We were all so surprised and the money arrived in time to help pay towards the funeral.

“My message would be if you find something of interest and you believe it could be original, especially something from London, make sure you look in to it, especially with a London auction house.”

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