Walter Mantell

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The Honourable
Walter Mantell
portrait of a man about 50 years old with beard and glasses
Mantell in c.1870
3rd Minister of Māori Affairs
In office
July 1861 – December 1861
Prime Minister William Fox
In office
December 1864 – July 1865
Prime Minister Frederick Weld
In office
August 1862 – August 1862
Prime Minister Alfred Domett
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wallace
In office
1861 – 1866
Personal details
Born Walter Baldock Durrant Mantell
(1820-03-11)11 March 1820
Lewes, Sussex, England
Died 7 September 1895(1895-09-07) (aged 75)
Wellington, New Zealand
Spouse(s) Mary Sarah Prince (m. 1869; d. 1873))
Jane Hardwick (m. 1876)
Relations Gideon Mantell (father)
Mary Ann Mantell (mother)

Walter Baldock Durrant Mantell (11 March 1820 – 7 September 1895) was a 19th-century New Zealand naturalist, politician, and land purchase commissioner. He was a founder and first secretary of the New Zealand Institute, and a collector of moa remains.

Early life[edit]

Mantell was born in Lewes, Sussex, England, the son of geologists Gideon Mantell and Mary Ann Mantell (née Woodhouse). He arrived in Wellington on the Oriental in 1840.[1]

In 1848, Mantell was appointed to the office of commissioner for extinguishing native titles in the South Island.[2]

Mantell left New Zealand as he did not feel right about trying to convince the indigenous Māori people to undersell their land and returned to England in 1856, where he met Geraldine Jewsbury, a woman eight years his senior. When in New Zealand, the Maori people called Mantell "Matara" (meaning chief in Māori) because they had a difficult time pronouncing his name; Jewsbury used this as a nickname for Mantell. When Mantell was in England he had difficulty finding work. He became restless at home as well as a tendency to act as a hypochondriac. Jewsbury encouraged him to write for the Westminster Gazette or to write a novel about New Zealand. Mantell eventually became tired of his friend's persistent advice. Jewsbury, however, wanted what was best for Mantell and felt deeply attached to him; she once proposed marriage to Mantell in a letter, but he declined her offer. By 1859 Jewsbury had ceased trying to win his love.[3] Shortly thereafter, Mantell returned to New Zealand.[1]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1861–1866 3rd Wallace Independent

Mantell represented the Wallace electorate from 1861 to 1866, when he retired.[4] He was the Minister of Māori Affairs in 1861 and 1864–65, and Postmaster-General briefly in 1862.[5]

From 1866 until his death he was on the New Zealand Legislative Council.[5]

Death and commemoration[edit]

He died in Wellington on 7 September 1895.[1]

Mantell is commemorated in the names of the North Island brown kiwi Apteryx mantelli and the North Island takahē Porphyrio mantelli.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Sorrenson, M. P. K. "Mantell, Walter Baldock Durrant". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "W. B. D. Mantell: Names of the hapu of the Kai Tahu tribe". Otago University Research Heritage. University of Otago. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Clarke, Norma (1990). Heights: Writing, Friendship, Love: The Jewsbury Sisters, Felicia Hemans, and Jane Welsh Carlyle. London: Routledge. 
  4. ^ Scholefield, Guy (1925) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record (2nd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 116. 
  5. ^ a b Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Frederick Weld
Minister of Native Affairs
Succeeded by
Dillon Bell
Preceded by
William Fox
Succeeded by
James FitzGerald
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Dillon Bell
Member of Parliament for Wallace
Served alongside: Dillon Bell
Succeeded by
Alexander McNeil