AN ARTIST was overjoyed to be reunited with a prized painting that was stolen from one of his exhibitions more than 20 years ago.

Philip King from Pinehurst never thought he'd see the beloved artwork again, which depicts a colourful crowd scene from Regent Street in the 1930's.

The retired typewriter shop owner first discovered that his painting had been found when he received a surprising phone call in February.

He said: "A lady from near Devon rang me, she'd seen the story in the Adver about the stolen painting and asked if I was Phil King.

"Her father was a market gardener from Swindon and he had bought it before moving out of town.

"It had meant a lot to the old chap and she inherited it when he passed away.

"It was really nice of her to call me and it's lovely to have it back, I'm over the moon."

Philip had sold it to his close friend Coleen and borrowed it back to display in the exhibition from which it was then stolen.

He said that she was just as happy as he was to have it returned after all this time.

The painting was inspired by a black-and-white early 20th century photo of McIlroy's and the clock tower in the town centre.

He decided to recreate the photograph on canvas in colour and added a few more people to the scene.

Philip added: "It's part of Swindon's history, all the shops there are gone now, it's all been flattened and changed so much."

This was one of two paintings in the exhibition at Swindon's Link Centre in 1995 which were stolen after being left in a corner unattended.

He found the first of the two stolen 18in x 14in paintings, which depicted Swindon Town Hall, in an antique shop in Lechlade 10 years ago.

In a remarkable coincidence, the second one had been in the same shop before it was bought by the market gardener.

Philip said: "I gave up on ever seeing either of them again because usually when paintings are stolen, they're very difficult to trace.

"I can't believe my luck, it's magic."

Philip has been an art lover for decades and began painting in 1980 after honing his skills at night school lessons at Nova Hreod Academy.

The 80-year-old said: "I had a super teacher, he was very inspiring and I loved it.

"I enjoy art, I love painting and I still do a bit of painting now as I've got a little workshop that I've set up at home.

"It's been a good life."