MY better half grew up in Great Ayton, so when Cambridge auctioneers Cheffins announced, on the instructions of the niece of the late Lady Fry, a premises sale at Cleveland Lodge, we just had to go. Plus the sale was packed with old and interesting pots.

We drove in through nice parkland, admiring the plain and pleasant building and the views of the Cleveland Hills. It was delightful.

The first thing we asked the auctioneers was how come they got the job. "Nepotism" was the reply, and indeed the sale, more than most, was about family, families important and characteristic in the area - a history lesson.

We had a quick gander and then popped out for a cup of tea and breakfast laid on in an outbuilding. Here we met Mr Ward, who is now in residence, and while I looked round the lots, he took my partner for a tour of the productive vegetable garden and the wall-trained fruit, and they chatted about liberal politics, Quakers, chocolate, steel, and fishing.

I got on with the work, though it wasn't arduous; the auctioneers were the friendliest crew and had the show beautifully set up. Moreover, as the serious dealers drove up and monied buyers filled the marquee, it was clear that there were unlikely to be many bargains.

The silver came up first, the auctioneer's gavel started to drop, and he ran through the 30 lots. Napkin rings, of all things, made the top price, £450, three times the estimate. They were enamelled with leaping salmon. Cheffins had erected a screen next to the auctioneer. This displayed a clear photograph of each lot as it came up, which made for a pleasing lack of distracting bustle.

The European ceramics were colourful in the shape of Dutch Delft plates, one of which made £200. Oriental ceramics were better represented and an eighteenth-century Chinese dish had the bank of telephones humming and went to an exotic £900.

British pottery was best represented by four framed eighteenth-century Liverpool tiles that made £900, twice expectations. A Middlesbrough plate by A J Wardle showing a statue of Joseph Pease and commemorating a railway jubilee at Darlington ran to £320, thrice expectations.

The British porcelain was from all parts, a Swansea plate flowered to £620, and an English Delft plate that I fancied reached a prohibitive £2,600. Then lot after lot of Delft tiles, enough for a bathroom, went for thousands of pounds to the same London dealer.

Furniture was strong, a Kendal longcase clock sold for £8,700, a London bracket clock for £7,000, a bookcase for £15,000, a court cupboard for £6,000, and a table for £5,000. However, a Gothic bookcase to a Pugin design sold for £6,000, half its estimate, perhaps because it had been built in and so had imperfect sides.

The auctioneers were also caught out by the only notable picture, a view of Rome "after Giuseppe Vasi". This realised £4,400, ten times its estimate.

For me the object that said it all about Quaker families was a sampler from 1793, entitled "Industry" that read "... if attended to with a good conscience it sweetens our enjoyments ... is a guard to innocence, and a bar to temptation."

The buyers were tempted bar nothing; the sale was sweet