Tommy's secret treasures up for sale

by SARAH HARRIS, Daily Mail

From the street, Tommy Tranter's terraced home wouldn't rate a second glance from passers-by.

Inside, the house was an eye-popping paradise for antique-lovers.

Treasures were crammed into every nook and cranny. Paintings lay in stacks, music boxes lined the hall and swords and pistols gathered dust in the bedrooms and attic.

The 79-year-old's obsession for collecting valuables throughout his life only came to light after he died peacefully in his armchair last September.

And while his small two-bedroom home in Handsworth, Birmingham, sold for just £30,000, auctioneers who found the secret contents believe they are worth ten times more.

Today and tomorrow, buyers from across the country are expected to bid around £300,000 for 850 lots. They will range from a watercolour or sword worth thousands to a £2 paperweight.

Likely to attract the most attention is a

painting of two girls sitting at a table. Bids are expected in the £2,000-£4,000 range.

There are 35 lots of bronze figures including a pair of winged messengers (£800-£1,200), a naked Joan of Arc Triumphant (£800-1,200) and a naked dancing lady with a small bear (£700-£900).

The auction also includes 20 lots of militaria including a late 18th century Egg flintlock pistol for which bids are expected to reach £1,000.

With no living relatives, reclusive Mr Tranter had instructed solicitors to sell his treasures through local auctioneers Fellows and Sons.

The firm's Stephen Whittaker said: 'Tommy was a real man of mystery and this was an image he would do anything to keep up.

'He had been buying bits and bobs from auctions for years all over the country and abroad. But everyone just presumed he was buying and selling for a small profit and that was it.

'When he died the place needed clearing out. When we were invited round we could not believe it. It was an Aladdin's Cave of antiques. A treasure trove.

'I was in a state of disbelief. I had known this man for 15 years and just presumed he bought a bit and sold a bit, but the house was literally chock-a-block with antiques.'

Mr Tranter never married and his past is a mystery.

Mr Whittaker added: 'We know that as a youngster he was very weak and bought the old Charles Atlas of body-building and built himself up to such an extent that during the war he served in the Navy and taught people how to keep fit and escape if captured.

'He was an exceptional swimmer and after the war he worked as a lifeguard in Newquay. We believe he received an award for bravery after saving the life of a young girl.

'Other than that we know he bought and sold cars for a living here in Birmingham. There has been some talk of a girlfriend in Blackpool who was on the stage and other rumours that he had a child with her.

'But we cannot find any proof of this and it could have been tall tales from Tommy.'

Mr Whittaker is under instructions not to reveal the executors of Mr Tranter's will but he believes the auction's proceeds will go to charity.

He added: 'Tommy Tranter's sale shows that you never know what people do behind closed doors. This is quite a secret he left behind and he's probably having a right chuckle at us all.'