THE sale of three post-war paintings from the estate of a deceased Monmouthshire collector drew crowds to the first antiques and effects sale of 2003 at Leominster's Brightwells saleroom.

All lines to the saleroom were booked by telephone bidders as three pictures by Ivon Hitchens went under the hammer.

"What really makes these paintings special is the provenance we have from the estate," said auctioneer Kate Alcock. "Letters from Hitchens himself referring to these paintings and original gallery receipts provide a fascinating insight and are invaluable to collectors."

The first canvas entitled "November painting II" bought in 1962 for £500, sold at £10,000 followed by "Autumn Larchwood" for £16,000. The largest oil, "Stream at Burton" sold at £21,000.

Ms Alcock conceded the pictures were "not to everyone's taste". She said locals viewing the sale "did not look twice" and it was no surprise to her that a leading London gallery took home all three.

"Even from Herefordshire, it is possible to target the right buyers," she said.

An 18th century walnut secretaire chest on chest from the same estate sold at £19,000 at the sale.