A UNIQUE painting of a Brierley Hill war hero has been found outside Cradley Library wrapped in a carrier bag, two-and-a-half years after it disappeared.

The oil painting, depicting tragic Brockmoor First World War soldier Sergeant William Jordan rescuing a wounded comrade in May 1915, had been missing - presumed stolen - since September 2013.

But history fans mourning its disappearance are celebrating its return after it was found on the library steps.

Brierley Hill Civic Society chairman Tim Sunter said: "It's absolutely fantastic. We thought it had been lost forever. When it went missing I think a lot of us were heartbroken. It's part of the town's history."

The picture, by award-winning artist Francis Gibbons, was displayed at Brierley Hill's old free library for many years before being confined to a drawer in the High Street library for members of the public to study and learn about its local significance.

Councillor Rachel Harris, Dudley's cabinet member for libraries, said: “This is very unusual to find such an important piece of local artwork abandoned on the front steps of a library.

"I’m pleased that after all this time someone has been brave enough to return the painting to us.”

Arrangements are now being made for its safekeeping.

War hero Sgt Jordan served with the South Staffordshire Regiment and was promoted for distinguished conduct in the field and mentioned by Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, in his final dispatch in 1915.

He was killed in action in France on the first day of the Battle of Loos later that year, aged 40.

The Wordsley artist donated his painting honouring Sgt Jordan's heroism to Brierley Hill District Council in 1917 and it was hung in the old library.

After it went missing Brierley Hill Civic Society joined the council in November 2014 calling for the painting to be returned but to no avail.

It was thought lost for good and Brierley Hill Civic Society and Sgt Jordan's great nephew Paul Jordan commissioned a reproduction of the picture, from an iPhone photograph of the original, which now hangs in St Michael's Church, Brierley Hill.