Estate gem' found at last

PUBLISHED: 13:17 31 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:55 10 June 2010

An historic missing book of letters, giving an insight into the workings of the Clinton Devon Estates has miraculously reappeared after staff thought it was lost forever.

An historic missing book of letters, giving an insight into the workings of the Clinton Devon Estates has miraculously reappeared after staff thought it was lost forever.

The beautiful leather-bound book is the first of 150 volumes of correspondence written by a succession of estate managers in the 1800s, writes David Beasley.

The books are kept in the library of Clinton Devon's East Devon headquarters at Rolle Estate, Bicton, with one glaring omission on the neat shelves - book number one.

The book covers the period 1865 to 1895 and contains letters written by Robert Hartley Lipscomb who was estates steward from 1856 to 1892.

It includes fascinating tit-bits like how the River Otter's estuary was built by Napoleonic French prisoners of war.

It was originally loaned to a local history researcher in 1993 and was never returned - but recently turned up in the man's attic, and has been returned to the estate by his wife.

Clinton Devon Estates director John Varley said: "The book is believed to have gone missing around 15 years ago and we were really sad not to have documentation of the oldest letters from Robert Lipscomb's first letter book.

"Our archivist Gerald Millington takes great pleasure in displaying these volumes in our new, purpose built headquarters at Bicton Arena and undertaking research into local history.

"But he struggled to find detail about these missing years as he

didn't have this valuable book.

"Then out of the blue, we received a call and the book came back. It is still in excellent condition and has been returned to its rightful home on the shelves of the estate office, much to our delight."

l The letters include some fascinating glimpses into the history of the running of a large estate, some of which will be featured in next week's Journal.

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