An ancient Chinese plate found in a South Derbyshire cupboard has sold for a staggering £230,000 at auction after it emerged there was a replica in the National Museum of China.

And the owners, who inherited it from their grandmother, had revealed that they might celebrate with fish and chips after being left staggered by how much it told for.

Chinese buyers came out in force to buy back a piece of their country's history with 19 phone lines booked by bidders – a new record for Hansons Auctioneers, in Etwall, as it was auctioned off.

Staff at Hansons Auctioneers are seen manning the 20 phone lines booked by bidders
Staff at Hansons Auctioneers are seen manning the 20 phone lines booked by bidders

The plate, which carries the reign mark for Emperor Yongzheng and dates back to 1723-1735, sold to a private overseas phone bidder who fought tirelessly to secure the prized item on Friday, September 29, said a Hansons spokeswoman.

And the packed saleroom broke out into applause when the gavel finally fell and the item was sold.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers and a familiar face on antiques-related TV shows, said: "This has been astonishing - one of the most exciting auctions I have ever had the honour of being involved in.

"Having 19 phone bidders was a record for us and I suspect it may be a record for any auction house outside London. I am absolutely delighted for the family who have allowed us to sell this wonderful object on their behalf, and also for the buyer who secured it."

The plate's original estimate was £40,000 to £60,000 but that began to look like a conservative estimate after it emerged that replicas of the plate existed at the National Museum of China and the Guangdong Museum in China. There is also a similar plate in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The plate was sold by three siblings from South Derbyshire who inherited it from their grandmother two years ago and tucked it away in a kitchen cupboard.

Charles Hanson with the rare plate
Charles Hanson with the rare plate
The family members wish to remain anonymous but one said: "We're stunned, totally stunned, and ecstatic. We never expected this at all. We just thought it was an ordinary plate given to our granny and passed down to us. This has really come out of the blue. We might have a large fish and chips tonight!

"We knew it was valuable, possibly worth a couple of thousand pounds. It had a metal mount on it because granny had it hanging on the wall in her lounge where it took pride of place.

The salesroom
The salesroom

"Her lounge was like a Chinese palace. We had no idea there was a replica plate in the National Museum of China.

The family are descendants of a canny Scotsman who bought the plate a century ago. Alexander Robertson, who was born in Thornhill in 1861, emigrated to America and went on to became vice-president of the Continental and Commercial Bank of Chicago in 1906.

The hugely rare plate carries the reign mark for Emperor Yongzheng and dates back to 1723-1735
The hugely rare plate carries the reign mark for Emperor Yongzheng and dates back to 1723-1735

He set up a household that befitted a prosperous man and purchased the Chinese plate in 1911. He never had any children and, on his death in 1922, all his possessions were shipped back to Edinburgh, divided between relations and passed down through the generations.

Measuring 13 inches in diameter, the plate is decorated on both sides with white flowering blossoms borne on leafy branches. Against a vibrant powder blue background, the flower petals and veins of leaves are detailed with fine slip trailing.

Looking for a job? There are thousands available at www.Fish4.co.uk