A John Constable painting of Abingdon bridge could raise £2m to pay the bills at a Scottish castle.

Antique experts believe they have identified an unknown work by the world-renowned landscape artist at Craufurdland Castle near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire.

Craudfurdland Castle and its surrounding 600-acre estate is run by its 28th laird, Simon Houison Craufurd, and his wife Adity, who hope to pass it on to their children.

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Maintenance costs of more than £100,000 a year have left Mr Craufurd and his wife fearing they may have to sell the castle.

But the discovery of the Constable painting, which was initially written off as a fake, may help Mr Craufurd avoid selling his family home.

The painting has been given a potential value of £1m to £2m. 

The couple have taken part in new Channel 4 show Millionaire Hoarders where experts scour properties for hidden treasures which could be sold off to raise cash.

Oxford Mail: The 'Constable' painting o Abingdon Bridge

The painting showing a bridge over a stretch of water has been on a wall of the guest wing at the castle for generations.

Antiques specialist Ronnie Archer-Morgan spotted the painting and realised it could be genuine before spending six months investigating it for the TV series. He concluded the couple have 'gold' in their hands.

The painting of Abingdon Bridge is undergoing forensic analysis by a Constable expert to confirm its authenticity before a possible sale at auction.

An initial assessment found it to be 'convincing in terms of ground, priming colours and handling.'

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Mrs Craufurd said the painting could allow the couple, who have two children, to invest in the castle and estate where they offer visitor accommodation and outdoor activities.

Oxford Mail: The Nag's Head on Abingdon Bridge

She said: "It would be life changing for the business, for the house, for everything."

In an email to the Oxford Mail she added: "We do not know yet if the Constable is real - it is long process before we get to that stage."

The painting has Constable's name on the frame with the title 'Old Bridge over the Avon'.

However, Mr Archer-Morgan believes the title may have been a mistake by the framer as his research found the bridge is actually over the River Thames at Abingdon.

Oxford Mail:

Constable's sketch books show he was in the area around the time the artwork was created in the 1820s.

Further research into letters kept at the castle found the painting was acquired by the Craufurd family in 1918 from John Postle Heseltine, an eminent art collector who owned several masterpieces.

Constable's The Lock became one of the most expensive British paintings ever sold when it fetched £22.4 million at auction in July 2012.

The artist was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk, in June 1776 and died in April 1837.

The Nag's Head pub on Abingdon Bridge is Grade II listed.

Millionaire Hoarders is on Channel 4 at 8pm on Friday.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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