A LOCK of hair believed to be that of novelist Jane Austen has sold at auction today for £4,800.

The auction was held at Dominic Winter Book Auctions of South Cerney and in spite of the lack of absolute proof (the name of Jane Austen is written in hair within the piece) transatlantic interest and a desire to believe attracted much competitive bidding.

The buyer was Holybourne Rare Books of Alton in Hampshire who bought the lock for an Austen-collecting client.

The previous lot, an excellent original condition set of a first edition of Jane Austen's first book, Sense and Sensibility, attracted much fiercer competition with the room bidders battling against seven phone lines.

The final hammer price of £30,000 was to a phone bidder against a pre-sale estimate of £10,000-15,000.

Auctioneer Chris Albury said: "We are very pleased with the results. The lock of hair was more of a gamble as in spite of research we could not prove its authenticity.

"It's definitely of the right period and as a sophisticated piece of hair artwork incorporating Jane Austen's name on balance we and other specialists think it most likely that this is the Jane Austen rather than another of the same name.

"If we had been able to prove it conclusively I'm sure there would have been a lot more bidders and a much higher price."