IT may only be a set of knives, forks and spoons but they have just been sold for a cool £52,000.

The Lingford Service, a cutlery set with 167 pieces, fetched a world record price at Tennants Auctioneers in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, yesterday.

The pieces, crafted by Victorian designer Omar Ramsden, belonged to one of County Durham's famous families, the Lingfords.

They were snapped up by a London dealer after a showroom bidding war between the businessman, who was bidding by phone, and a collector.

The dealer won, and after paying an extra £7,000 in taxes and fees, is now the proud owner of a unique piece of 20th Century history.

It may be hard to imagine spending the price of a house on some knives and forks, but valuer at Tennants, Adam Schoon, said the cutlery was an outstanding collection from the arts and craft movement.

The sculpted handmade pieces feature a rat-tail pattern and ivory handles.

The fruit forks, fish knives, and other pieces were sold encased in an oak-veneered dwarf cabinet.

Mr Schoon said: "I can confidently say that this is the most we have ever taken for 20th Century cutlery in the history of the auction house.

"These pieces are unique because every single item is handmade. The whole set is unique because it is so extensive. Each item is a work of art. We could have sold them separately but they are much more stunning as a set.

"Its beauty lies in the fact that it has been contained within the family and as a set."

The former owner of the cutlery, who does not want to be named, is from Barnard Castle, County Durham, and a relative of the Lingfords, a Bishop Auckland family who made Lingford's baking powder.

After Ramsden's death in 1939, the cutlery was sold by his widow, who had financial difficulties after the war, and acquired by Herbert Lingford.

Herbert, the son of Joseph, founder of the company, was a personal friend of the Ramsdens, who is said to have met an unusual death in woods near Barnard Castle in the early 1950s.

He had obtained the pieces for his brother-in-law, the seller's father.

Another 24 spoons from the Lingford service were also sold in separate lots, raising an additional £5,400.

Rory Wardroper, of Tennants, said: "The bidding was very exciting. It is a huge amount, a world record price.