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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

The Hon. Walter Baldock Durant Mantell

The Hon. Walter Baldock Durant Mantell, M.L.C., F.G.S., son of the late Dr. Gideon Algernon Mantell, the distinguished geologist, was born at Lewes, in Sussex, in 1820. Mr. Mantell was intended for the medical profession, but did not complete the eurriculum. He came out to the Colony by the ship “Oriental,” arriving in Port Nicholson in Jannary, 1840. After a few months residence in Wanganui he was, in January, 1841, appointed postmaster and clerk to the Bench in Wellington, holding the former position for three years. He then went to Taranaki, and, having heard from his friend, Mr. Charles Nairn, of the existence of Moa bones at Waingongoro he went there, and found great quantities in the ovens in which the old Maoris had cooked them. Mr. Mantell also discovered there fragments of the eggs of the bird. For a short time after this Mr. Mantell was employed as superintendent on the military roads in the Porirua district. In August, 1848, he was appointed commissioner for extinguishing native claims in the Middle Island. His duty was to set aside reserves for the Maoris, and to reconcile them to the sale of lands partly purchased by Mr. Kemp on behalf of the Government, and for which some of them had already signed a deed. A year later Mr. Mantell was appointed to the duty of extinguishing native titles on Banks Peninsula. In 1851, at the suggestion of Sir George Grey, Mr. Mantell, who had been appointed one of the local commissioners of the great Exhibition, assisted in the formation of the New Zealand Society for scientific purposes, and became its secretary. About the end of 1851 he was appointed Crown Lands Commissioner for the Southern district of New Munster, and at the same time held the offices of commissioner of Land Claims, commissioner under the New Zealand Company's Land Claimants Ordinance, and commissioner for the extinguishment of native claims. In 1852 he made a further collection of fossil remains, and sent a splendid shipment page 255
The Hon. Walter Baldock Durant Mantell

Photo by Wrigglesworth and Binns.

to his father in England. These arrived too late, as Dr. Mantell had died, and the collection remained unopened till 1856; subsequently they were deposited in the British Museum. At the end of 1855, Mr. Mantell obtained leave of absence to visit England. While in London in 1856, in consequence of some of the promises made by him to the Maoris under his instructions from the Government having been broken, Mr. Mantell resigned his official positions, feeling himself out of harmony with the native policy of both the Imperial and Colonial Governments. Mr. Mantell returned to the Colony in 1859. From July to December, 1861, he was Minister for Native Affairs in the Fox Ministry. He held the office of Postmaster-General and Secretary for Crown Lands in the Domett Administration, in August 1862, and was subsequently, without portfolio, resident minister at Wellington during the recess. Mr. Mantell was a second time minister for Native affairs in the Weld Ministry, from December, 1864, to July, 1865. After serving as a member of the House of Representatives for the county of Wallace for some years, he was, in 1866, nominated to the Legislative Council. Mr. Mantell has always been an earnest advocate for honourable fulfilment of all engagements with the Maoris. The subject of this notice has been married twice, first to Mary Sarah, daughter of Mr. Edward Prince, on the 29th July, 1863, and second on the 10th January, 1876, to Jane, daughter of Mr. Benjamin Hardwick, of Beckenham, in Kent. By his first wife he has one son, Walter Godfrey Mantell of Wellington. (For later particulars see page 68.)