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A section of wood taken from the tree where Stanley met Livingstone in 1871 sold at Sworders for £2400.

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The memento, a witness to a famous moment in the history of the British empire, came for sale from the family of the man who saved it from a skip years after it had been donated to Edward Higgins, leader of the Salvation Army, in 1931.

Scottish explorer and missionary Dr David Livingstone (1813-73) had completely lost contact with the outside world for six years when Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) was sent to Africa to find him by the New York Herald newspaper in 1869.

He found Livingstone in the town of Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871, supposedly greeting him under a mango tree with the famous words “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

During the early 20th century a series of makeshift memorials were erected at Ujiji to commemorate the meeting. After the British took over the Tanganyika Territory in 1919, grafts were taken from the mango tree (which was no longer bearing fruit) and successfully replanted close by. The old tree was finally cut down in 1930 and sections of its trunk saved for posterity – one piece placed in the museum of the Royal Geographical Society.

The piece at Sworders in Stansted Mountfitchet, measuring just over 8in (21cm) across, has a simple silver plaque engraved with the inscription Section of the Mango Tree under which Stanley met Livingstone in 1871 sent from Ujiji to General Higgins in 1931. It was almost discarded in the mid 1970s when the old Salvation Army building in Holborn was refurbished.