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So when Wotton Auction Rooms' (15% buyer's premium) specialist Philip Taubenheim was presented with a large and unusual hexagonal Georgian “chapel house” tea caddy in good condition for his March 23-24 sale, he gave it a £1000-1500 guideline but hoped it might make double that.

Made c.1800, at a time when tea was still a highly prized commodity and the market was yet to be flooded by cheaper Indian imports, the 10in x 7 1/2in (25cm) mahogany and walnut lead-lined caddy was a skilfully executed quality receptacle.

“Any architectural form tea caddy is rare and this one had false windows on every facet, inlaid circular windows in the roof, and a dome supported by turned ivory columns,” said Mr Taubenheim.

The quality and rare form of the privately-entered caddy caught the eye of six specialist collectors who battled for it over the phone. However, all were outbid by a London dealer in the room who took the caddy at £10,800.

As with the caddy, it was probably also the quirkiness of an Edwardian album comprising 50 inscribed black and white snapshots of the construction of Portsmouth Sewerage Works 1904-5 that ensured this work left its £40-50 estimate standing.

Sewage is hardly the sexiest subject matter, but the photographs attracted the interest of Portsmouth Museum as well as two specialist dealers. The album sold to one of the dealers at £400.

The most expensive piece of furniture, an 18th century walnut writing bureau with an original and nicely shaped stepped interior, was from the same consignment as the caddy.

Although bureaux no longer have the commercial appeal they once did, this quality example had the features buyers still want.

“If it’s early 18th century and walnut you have still got a good chance of selling it,” said Mr Taubenheim.

It fetched £5800 from a Belgium collector bidding on the telephone.

A tiny 18th century oak bureau, just 2ft 1in (63cm) wide was taken to £1680 and the narrow proportions of a 5ft (1.52m) wide 18th century oak cottage dresser ensured it fetched £2900.