Police have recovered £5 million worth of antiques stolen during raids in stately homes across England.

The 14 items, which have been described as of significant historical and cultural value, were recovered from two storage units in West and South Yorkshire.

They are believed to be stolen from Newby Hall and Sion Hill in North Yorkshire and Firle Place in East Sussex.

One of the items recovered is a George III rosewood Chippendale table, thought to be made especially for Newby Hall in Rippon in 1775, which was stolen in June 2009. It is described as having worldwide importance.

Also recovered from the raid was a pair of Louis XVI ormolu and Sevres bleu vases, with an insurance value of £950,000 along with a Meissen statue, The Indiscreet Harlequin, and a rare Sevres Hollandois Nouveau vase from 1761, each valued at £180,000 each.

The antiques are alleged to have been traded between two drug lords. Police said two men, aged 68 from Tankersley and aged 44 from Middleton, Leeds, have been arrested. Both men are to be questioned while the rest of the antiques that were recovered are being formally identified by experts.

Detective Superintendent Steve Waite said: "This is an absolutely fantastic case and a great result for both the officers involved and the stately homes that have been affected by these thefts.

"We are so pleased and proud to have recovered these high-value antiques which have been described as true pieces of British heritage.

"We will now begin the formal process of identification and will eventually be in a position to reunite the pieces with their owners. For now, they will remain under lock and key in a controlled environment so as to preserve them.

"Only a couple of items have suffered minor damage in the ordeal but this just goes to show that those involved in the thefts were not in it for their love of antiques. In fact, recent trends indicate that these types of high-value items are actually being used by organised crime groups as currency or collateral in relation to serious criminality, often involving drugs."

The operation involved more than 30 officers and was the result of a yearlong investigation by the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit.