It was an unlikely place to find a treasure trove of exquisite antiques.
When auctioneer Martin Lawrence was called to the rundown two-bedroomed council flat following the death of the elderly man who lived there, he expected no more than a routine valuation of humdrum household items.
But it didn’t take long for him to realise that he was in for a treat.
For among the items buried under boxes of junk was a 170-year-old Native American bowl which was to sell at auction for £70,000.
A 2ft solid silver trophy presented to a captain of Nelson’s navy in 1796, found under a bed, fetched more than £10,000.
In all, the hoard was to raise £250,000 at auction.
Mr Lawrence went to the flat in Southsea, Hampshire, following the death of a man in his 80s last year.
He was faced with piles of old newspapers, cardboard boxes and old mattresses obstructing entire rooms but by the end of the clearing operation 300 antiques had been unearthed.
Mr Lawrence, of Jacobs & Hunt auctioneers in Petersfield, Hampshire, said: ‘It was meant to be a straightforward probate of the contents but it became apparent as we started that this was something quite special.
‘The items were either stuffed in boxes, left in sideboards and cupboards, lying on the floor or under the bed and in almost every nook and cranny.’
Other pieces that were sold at auction last month included a Chinese jade ornament in the shape of a fish worth £12,000.
A pair of 19th century pistols sold for £3,400 and an 18-carat white gold diamond ring went for £2,600.
The pensioner who lived in the flat is thought to have inherited the collection from his parents who were well-known antique dealers in London at the time of the Second World War.
Mr Lawrence said: ‘You could just tell the collection had been in the same place for many years. A neighbour said he was a nice man but they had no idea of what his flat was like.’
The star item, which attracted bids from collectors in Canada, New York and Australia, was the Native American bowl, carved into the shape of a seal.
It would have been used by the Haida tribe to serve rich foods at feasts in the early to mid-19th century.
Mr Lawrence said: ‘It was kept in the back of a kitchen cupboard and luckily hadn’t been used for many years.’