A BROTHER and sister who unearthed a Chinese vase after clearing out a house in Pinner were left stunned when it sold for a world record-breaking £43 million.

The 18th-century piece of Qianlong-era porcelain was expected to fetch between £800,000 and £1.2 million when it went under the hammer.

But the total price, including commission and VAT on the commission, was £53,105,000 after bids in the packed auction room went sky high.

Believed to have been acquired by an English family during the 1930s or earlier, auctioneer Bainbridges said how it reached north-west London would never be known.

The owners, who had inherited it, had little idea of the fortune it would make them when they found it.

The vase is understood to have been carried off by a private buyer from China for what is believed to be the highest sum for any Chinese artwork sold at auction.

The eye-watering price it fetched shocked both the auctioneer and the owners.

Helen Porter of Bainbridges said: "They had no idea what they had. They were hopeful but they didn't dare believe until the hammer went down. When it did, the sister had to go out of the room and have a breath of fresh air."

The auction in Ruislip attracted many Chinese bidders keen to get their hands on a piece of their imperial past.

Bainbridges described the 16in-high piece, which is decorated with a fish motif, as one of the most important Chinese vases to go on sale this century.

A posting on the auctioneer's blog said: "It is a masterpiece. If only it could talk."