Chacombe collector hands 129-year-old books to owners' family

Lesley Handley (centre) hands the 1888 geography books to their original owners' descendant David Newton (left) alongside Finders International founder Danny Curran (right). Photo: James Rudd/Finders International
Lesley Handley (centre) hands the 1888 geography books to their original owners' descendant David Newton (left) alongside Finders International founder Danny Curran (right). Photo: James Rudd/Finders International

A Chacombe woman's two geography books from the 1880s have been returned to descendants of their original owners thanks to the team behind BBC show Heir Hunters.

Lesley Handley bought the 129-year-old books in the early 1980s at a boot sale and was fascinated by the child's drawings inside with the names Ada, Lucy, Ethel and Lily Dobell inscribed.

Drawings on the inside of the 129-year-old book. Photo: James Rudd/Finders International

Drawings on the inside of the 129-year-old book. Photo: James Rudd/Finders International

The 64-year-old collector struggled to find the descendants of the four children so the books stayed with their rightful owners until enlisting professional genealogists Finders International.

Within a day, a family member was found in Tring, Hertfordshire, by the stars of Heir Hunters and another was tracked down a couple of days later in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

Lesley travelled to Tring with Finders' founder Danny Curran to present the books to David Newton, Lucy Dobell's grandson.

"I'm so pleased that we found someone to hand them over to and they will be passed down from generation to generation, but we couldn't have done it without Finders," Lesley said.

Lesley thinks she bought the books, which date back to 1888, at a book stall at either Finmere market or Wellesbourne market.

Inside were delicate pencil drawings and homework exercises by the Dobell children, which was the only way Lesley and Finders had any way of tracking down their descendants.

“We have enjoyed the books and have kept them in good condition, but also wanted locate the descendants because these books shed a lovely light on the personal lives of the girls at that time,” Lesley said.

Lesley managed to find out the children's father was a vicar but struggled to get much further until Finders took up the challenge.

Danny and his team of researchers quickly located descendants of Lucy Dobell, one of the little girl’s names on the books.

Lucy Ellen was born in Shropshire, then moved down to the Lewisham/Wandsworth areas of London and had three children.

One of whom was Enid Margaret who was born in Lewisham and first married Thomas Maddock in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, but in 1948, she married her second husband Brian Newton in Hertfordshire.

The team also found Peter Maddocks in Maidenhead, another of the Dobell's descendants.

Danny said: “We are delighted that we have been able to help to reintroduce these deeply personal family possessions to their owners.”

Lesley has another historic book which she bought during a holiday to Lyme Regis which has sketches from the owners and Finders are helping her find the true owners of that too.