Gideon Mantell’s last resting place

As he was living on Clapham Common when his beloved daughter Hannah died Mantell had her buried nearby in West Norwood cemetery. He stated that he wished to be buried with her on his own death which explains why this son of Lewes who was by then living in central London is buried in West Norwood outer London.

His grave can be found at grave 273, square 99. The following description of his funeral comes from The Friends of West Norwood Cemetery (FOWNC) Newsletter No 46

Mantell’s funeral followed the instructions he deposited with his wife’s nephew, Alfred Woodhouse, buried ‘by the side of my beloved child’ in Norwood Cemetery, with the funeral ‘as plain as possible, and to take place in the early morning’. The hearse, drawn by four horses, was accompanied by two other coaches, one being his own, presumably driven by his coachman Thomas. His daughter Ellen Maria, sister Mary West, Alfred Woodhouse, his solicitor Mr Williams, Charles Pritchard, Headmaster of Clapham School, Joseph Dinkel, the artist who worked with him for 20 years, and Hannah his cook were at the graveside with the service performed by the Reverend Kemble from Clapham. His wife, probably living in Cambridgeshire at the time, did not attend although Mantell hoped she would. He had drawn the outline of a plain monument to be placed over the graves and the Portland stone tomb subsequently placed there was designed by Amon Henry Wilds, son of Amon Wilds who had remodelled Mantell’s home, Castle Place in Lewes.

Thanks to Bob Flanagan of the FOWNC for the attached pictures of Mantell’s grave show it before and after restoration, necessary as it was sinking into the ground. The design by Wilds is meant to be a near perfect replica in form, but not in the applied detail, of the Bark Stand in the sanctuary of the Temple of Amun at Naqa, Sudan, (684-680 BC) dating from the 1st century AD in the reign of King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore. See the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery Newsletter No 52 for more on the influences underpinning Amon Wilds’ work.

As a GradeII* listed monument the restoration work had to be carried out with the aid of English Heritage  Although broken into pieces by the contractors the original is now in Lewes in the care of Sussex Archaeological Society.  It is hoped by Mantell’s many local fans that a true homecoming back to Lewes can be arranged for Gideon Mantell – by bring them out from the cellar and locating them somewhere in Lewes as a tribute to this national and international local hero.

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