THE violin played by Colne’s Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley as the ship sank broke a world record when it was sold for £900,000 at the weekend.

The instrument was found strapped to Wallace’s body after he died in the disaster in 1912, which killed 1,500 people.

The violin, accompanied by a leather luggage case initialled W.H.H., went under the hammer with a host of other items from the ship at the public auction in Devizes, Wiltshire.

It had a reserve price of between £200,000 and £300,000 and was expected to reach as much as £400,000. However, no one expected it to fetch nearly £1million, a record for Titanic memorabilia.

Wallace Hartley has become part of the ship’s legend after leading his fellow musicians in playing as the doomed vessel went down, most famously the hymn Nearer My God To Thee.

The violin has an inscription on the back from the 34-year-old’s fiancee to mark their engagement. The instrument was always believed to have been lost, but turned up in an attic of a house in 2006 and tests have since proved it to be genuine.

Around 200 people packed out the Henry Aldridge and Son sale room in the hope of capturing a piece of history.

Alan Aldridge, principal auctioneer, said that with the buyer’s premium and VAT, the price would top £1million, which he did not think would be broken.

“The violin was the most iconic item we have seen and there were some very, very wealthy people bidding."

Mr Aldridge said there had been some strong bidding from both British and US collectors but would not reveal who had won. He said: “It was an anonymous bidder.”

Peter Boyd-Smith, a Titanic historian and seller of the ship's memorabilia, said he believed the violin had been bought by a British collector.

He said: "I have been to many, many auctions but I have never seen one like this.

“£900,000 for a violin? Absolutely incredible. It's staying in the UK and I think it is a private collector, but I’m not too sure.”

The previous record sale saw a 32-foot plan of the Titanic used in the inquiry into the sinking in 1912 fetch more than £220,000 two years ago.