A FURNITURE restorer from Lechlade has spoken of the moment he realised he had discovered priceless correspondence between two of English literature's greatest exponents.

Clive Payne was restoring an old bureau, which was believed to have been owned by mystery writer Agatha Christie, when he discovered a telegram from playwright Noel Coward, sent from Bermuda in September 1957.

In it he congratulates the writer on her play The Mousetrap breaking the record for the longest running show in London's West End.

The 18th century bureau had been bought in an auction of items from Agatha Christie's former home in south Devon.

Mr Payne said he discovered the telegram when he took the back off the bureau whilst carrying out repairs for the new owner, who asked not to be named.

"The client rang me up and said he had a bureau which came from the estate of Agatha Christie which he'd recently purchased," he said.

"As part of the restoration process I needed to remove its back. The usual dirt and muck fell out, but also two pieces of paper.

"They had been jammed by two pieces of wood. If the furniture was not brought in to be restored, no-one would ever know the items were there."

The other piece of paper was a receipt for underwear, housecoats and night wear from 1952, and addressed to Mrs Mallowan, which was Christie's married name after her second marriage. The bill details charges of £24 13s 6d, dated January 1, 1952.

Mr Payne added: "It confirmed my client's story that it had belonged to Agatha Christie so he was obviously really pleased.

"For me personally, I was absolutely gobsmacked, I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. Something like this will only happen once in my career and I will never forget that moment of discovery."