A work by the artist whose other photos hang in the Portrait Gallery in London was discovered at a sale at the local church in Harborough

The photos were found at the church sale.

Sheila Caberwell was working on the bric-a-brac stand for the event at St Nicholas Parish Church, Little Bowden earlier this year.

The 64-year-old arrived early to set up a stall in the Scouts hut and sell the items for between £2 and £5.

But Sheila – a retired scientist and teacher – said there was something about one of the images that stood out.

Other works by the artist were discovered when the portraits were taken to a local gallery.

She told the Mail: “There was one photo that caught my eye. It was two pen and ink portraits in a black frame. There was something that caught my attention. As as a student, I studied A level biology and at that time you had to be able to draw living organisms with pen and ink.

“These portraits were scribbled lines. They conspired to give you an impression. Somehow they captured the essence of the person. Not the anatomical detail that I understand.

After looking more closely at the photo, she saw the name ‘Arrobus’ and a date, with the address on the back for ‘Sydney Arrobus Studio A’ in London. Sheila added: “The writing matched the writing on the front. I felt a thrill of excitement. I was holding an original that had been signed and dated by the artist with some providence.

“I told the vicar I couldn’t sell the portraits because they felt special and I wanted to do some research.”

Sheila Caberwell (left) and another church member on valuation day.

After examining the artist, she discovered that his name was Sydney Arrobus and that he had portraits hanging in the National Gallery in London.

He was Jewish, born in 1901 and lived until 1990 in Cricklewood in London. He is best known for his pen and ink portraits and English villages in watercolor.

The artist has five portraits currently hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wanting to authenticate the images, mother-of-one Sheila went to the local Wingates Gallery.

It was then that the staff discovered that there was a third painting hidden below. Sheila said: “We were amazed and excited. It was clear that the picture frame had never been opened before.

“The back panel was lifted and we saw another pen and ink portrait. This too was signed and dated. It read ‘Porto Roco Sad Couple, Blonde wife 7 -9 -73’.

Self-proclaimed art lover Sheila requested to leave the painting with the gallery, but this was rejected as there was a possibility that the value of the art would exceed the gallery’s insurance limits.

She contacted antiques dealer Charles Hanson – a regular on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Antiques Road Show – and was encouraged to attend an appraisal day at Kelmarsh House in Northamptonshire.

Sheila added: “Our expert assessor was Jim Spencer, who specializes in printed matter. He loved our story and especially loved the portraits.

“He noticed that it was the artist’s own label on the back, which meant that Sydney Arrobus had personally selected these designs for display and appraised them himself.”

The photos have now been auctioned on August 23 at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge in Staffordshire with a fixed reserve of £50.

Julia P. Cluff