The walnut writing chest that made £80,000 at Christie’s.

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But John Parry is the type of enthusiast for whom the adjective indefatigable was coined.

Just one week before his first benchmark sale at Christie's in April 1997, he paid a quadruple-estimate £84,000 (including premium) for a burr walnut bachelor's chest offered in the same rooms that he said "proved irresistible". It made its appearance here as one of the potential stars of his second auction titled Three Woods: a Passion for Walnut, Oak and Yew, held at Christie's on March 25.

With almost 30 pieces of walnut on offer, there probably hasn't been this much early collector's fare on the market since the last Parry dispersal and this, coupled with some very meaty estimates and the fact that some were very recent acquisitions, made it quite a test of the market.

In the event it passed the challenge. An international roster of buyers carried off 97 of the 122 lots and even if prices didn't always match up to the higher expectations, it still netted £984,630.

Pictured here is the day's most expensive piece, a quarter-veneered burr walnut writing chest dated to c.1730. A compact, almost square, piece measuring 2ft 8in (80cm) wide, it is fitted with a secretaire drawer with writing slope over two short and two long drawers and retains the original metalwork.

One of the pieces that John Parry held back from his 1997 dispersal (he acquired it at Phillips Chester in 1990 for a then substantial £45,870), three telephone bidders competed for it this time around before it sold to one of them, an English private collector, for a mid-estimate £80,000.

By Anne Crane