Part of a 67-piece Qianlong period dinner service, this 15in (37cm) wide soup tureen suffered from a broken finial. Despite serious condition problems, the service sold for £62,000 at Clarke Gammon Wellers of Guildford on July 3.

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Take this Chinese tobacco leaf soup tureen for instance. It was one of two from a 67-piece Qianlong period dinner service that had been stored in wooden crates at a property in the village of Hascombe, Surrey.

They had been kept in the garage for as long as anyone could remember and when the crates were unpacked after being consigned to Guildford saleroom Clarke Gammon Wellers, the auctioneers were shocked not just by the vibrant patterns on the porcelain but also by the live mouse that scurried out.

The pieces were in bad condition. Many had breakages, cracks or repair work.

The service consisted of the two soup tureens and one sauce tureen (all three with covers), two large rectangular dishes, 15 small dishes, four sauceboats, 15 soup plates, two side plates and 23 dessert plates.

The vendor had inherited the service from her parents. Her father was a colonel in the army and may have acquired it while on duty overseas.

The auctioneers thought the pieces dated from the 1760s and they were entered as a single lot in their July 3 sale. The estimate was £3000-5000 but, on the day, they were hoping for at least £20,000, such was the level of presale interest.

At the sale, three telephone lines competed against two serious buyers in room. The hammer finally fell at £62,000 (plus 17.5% buyer's premium) after a London trade buyer on the phone saw off another London dealer in room.

This figure almost doubled the house record, which previously was for a picture of a racehorse that made £35,000 back in 1996.

By Alex Capon