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Butt-end of art sale

A CIGAR partly smoked by Winston Churchill is going under the hammer.

The unusual item has come up for auction at the next Cheffins Fine Art Sale in Cambridge.

George Archdale, associate partner at Cheffins, said: "It comes with a typed note saying it was taken out of an ashtray at Chequers Court on February 21 1953. We don't have any corroborative evidence, but there's no reason to doubt it."

Measuring 12 cm long, the unfinished cigar comes with a cigar band, and is expected to fetch ?80-120.

One of the world's most famous cigarsmokers, Churchill is reputed to have begun smoking cigars in earnest when he went to Cuba as a military observer in 1895.

At Chartwell Manor, his country home in Kent, he is said to have kept a stash of up to 4,000 of them.

Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, at Churchill College, Cambridge, said: "The cigar is very much a symbol of Winston Churchill - it is omnipresent in press and private photographs we store here. Some of the original documents and papers even contain cigar stains, and we have here his early cigar bills - although it's pretty unlikely he would have ever had to buy a cigar again after July 1945.

"He built up a very large personal collection of high-quality cigars sent as gifts. One of the files we have here is about wartime testing of his cigars - these gifts came from all over the world, some through Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, which were not allied countries."

This led to fears Churchill could be sent an exploding or a poisoned cigar, and MI5 was brought in to test them.

Mr Packwood said: "There's evidence from early school letters that he smoked cigarettes as a schoolboy, and when he went to Cuba he would certainly have been exposed to Cuban cigars. He returned to Cuba in 1946 just before his Iron Curtain speech, by which time, many manufacturers were producing Churchill cigars."

Viewing for the Cheffins sale begins on Sunday, September 3, and the twoday sale takes place from 11am on Wednesday and Thursday, September 6-7, at Cheffins, Clifton Road, Coleridge, Cambridge. Call Cheffins on (01223) 213343.

Source: Cambridge Evening News