Prospecting for gold

1904 - 1929

The story of a group of Goldhanger adventurers

uncovered after 100 years

CONTENTS  (with links)

o      Introduction

o      Summary of activities

o      Maps

o      Dr Salter diaries

o      Revd Gardner involvement

o      Ernest Mansfield - prospector, journalist, author, publicist

-     Catalogue of Ernest's activities and documents  (16 pages)

-     Ernest's book:Astria - The Ice Maiden (152 pages)

-     Ernest's Scientific Predictions

-     Ernest - the journalist, author and publicist - his articles (106 pages)

-     Ernest in the Great War

o      Articles from The Times & New York Times

o      Prospectuses for NEC share sales

o      Photographs from the time

o      Recent Photos

o      Current YouTube videos and images on the web

o      The story of uncovering Mansfield’s past and the Goldhanger to Spitsbergen quest


In the early 1900s a group of Goldhanger residents became involved in prospecting for gold on the remote northern island of Spitsbergen. Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. Despite suffering from motor neuron disease one of the leaders of the group was the Goldhanger Rector the Revd. Frederick Gardner, who himself made several trips to Spitsbergen. The other key individual involved was Ernest Mansfield, who lived for several years in both in Goldhanger and Tolleshunt Darcy. Most of the expeditions took place over a ten year period starting in 1904, during which time they formed a company called The Northern Exploration Company (NEC). Gold was definitely found in small quantities, but there is no evidence that it was every mined in commercially by this group. They did however, mine marble and coal commercially for 3 years involving at least 40 miners. The activity seems to have been terminated by world war one and disputes about the quality of the marble and ownership of land on the island. The company was finally taken over by the Norwegian government and a Norwegian mining group.

Those involved were:

The Reverend Frederick Thomas Gardner Rector of Goldhanger from 1893 to 1936. His obituary published in The Times of 1936 refers to his participation in the Spitsbergen expeditions. More about the...Revd. Frederick Gardner

Ernest Mansfield was a professional prospector who lived for several years in both in Goldhanger and Tolleshunt Darcy, but had been a mine manager in Canada and New Zealand. Mansfield and Dr. Salter appear to have become close friends and both were Master Freemasons of the Kelvedon/Easterford Lodge. A full biography of Ernest Mansfield has been published and is now available worldwide as a paperback book.

Dr Henry Salter The well known GP lived in Tolleshunt Darcy but his practice embraced Goldhanger. His published diary does not mention him going to Spitsbergen, but he describes Gardnerʼs and Mansfieldʼs activities and his role in lobbying the UK government in an attempt to claim Spitsbergen as UK territory. More about... Dr Henry Salter

Charles Mann was the Goldhanger wheelwright, builder and undertaker and later landlord of the Chequers Inn at Goldhanger. He built several cabins on Spitsbergen. More about... Charles Mann

George Alexander a familiar name in Goldhanger history, his family were associated with the Bird-in-Hand ale house. He acted as Charles Mannʼs assistant.

David and James Booth brothers of Margaret Mansfield ne Booth, they went on at least one trip and worked as drilling expert and cook respectively.

Poppy Gardner wife of the Rector, accompanied the Revd Gardner on at least two trips.

The Earl of Morton Sholto Douglas, the 19th Earl of Morton, was a friend of the Rector and an early shareholder in one of the companies they formed.

The Hon. Revd Frederick Ernest Charles Byron Rector of Langford from 1890 to1914 was also an early shareholder in one of the companies they formed.

Ernest Shackleton the famous Antarctic explorer, was involved later in a WW-1 "undercover military enterprise" with NEC.


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A summary of related activities in chronological order

1893       Revd. Gardner appointed Rector of Lt Totham & Goldhanger at the age of 29

1903       E Mansfield returned from mining in New Zealand and settle in Goldhanger

1904       Revd. Gardner made first trip to Spitsbergen "on holiday"

1904       E Mansfield and his wife "took a cottage at Goldhanger" and met Dr Salter

1904       Dr Salter & Revd. Gardner funded Mansfield first trip to Spitsbergen

1905       Mansfield, leader of Northern Exploration Company occupied areas in Bellsund

1905       Gardner trip to Spitsbergen on Sloop "familien", mentioned in the Parish magazine

1906       Charles Mann and George Alexander went in this year. Charles Mann was paid ₤40

1906       Dr Salter made a director of the Spitsbergen Exploration Co.

1906       Dr Salter heard Revd. Gardner's story about Spitsbergen, from which he had just returned.

1906       Revd. Gardner travelled to Spitsbergen on 'North of the Polar Sea' - "having a rough time".

1906       E Mansfield travelled to Spitsbergen with "2 Englishmen & 20 workers".

1907       Revd. Gardner attempted to go to Spitsbergen with Mrs Gardner, but failed to reach it due to ice

1908       Ernest Mansfield erected building as a base for prospecting gold and platinum in the summer

1808       Charles Mann went again to Spitsbergen, he was paid ₤60

1908       E Mansfield over wintered in a house in Spitsbergen from 1908 to 1909

1908       Dr Salter gets telegram that the Spitsbergen assay was 16grains per ton and "useless".

1910       The Northern Exploration Company was registered in London

1910       E Mansfield built two houses east of Camp Bell and called it Camp Millar to mine for gold

1910       E Mansfield wrote Astria - the ice maiden, while over-wintering on Spitsbergen

1910       Maugham & Mansfield declared many minerals to the press

1910       The NEC issued a prospectus for share sales

1911       Forty Scottish miners employed to mine marble at Camp Mansfield, Blomstrandhalvya

1911       Northern Exploration Company bought all the land occupied by Mansfield for ₤75,000

1911       Revd. Gardners trip to Spitsbergen curtailed by wars

1911       Dr Salter "bombarded by newspaper men" about Spitsbergen

1912       Public meeting of Northern Exploration Co. "Splendid exhibition of marble of all colours"

1913       Marble mining ceased, equipment moved to Bellsund

1913       E Mansfield's last expedition and was "removed from NEC leadership"

1913       E Mansfield wrote his second novel Ralph Raymond based on his NZ experiences

1914       NEC Chairman consulted Lloyd George about the iron ore reserves

1917       Times report: Mansfield throw himself with characteristic energy into the scheme

1918       Dr Salter "clinched a deal with Northern Exploration Co", receiving ₤1000 for 2100 shares.

1918       Dr Salter diary quotes: Spitsbergen resuscitation after 24 years

1918       Ernest Shackleton became involved in an "undercover military enterprise",

                involving Northern Exploration Co. and an expedition to Spitsbergen involving an armed merchant ship, called "The Ella".

1919       NEC valued at 1 million pounds

1919       The Bellsund site closed

1919       Date of The Times report of annual general meeting

1919       A Marconi radio station being installed at 3 NEC location/properties

1919       War Office recommend Lt Col. Borton VC CMG DSO appointment as "local Director"

1919       Accommodation "for at least 500 men"" provided

1919       The annual accounts show expenditure on a "seaplane"

1920       Dr Salter: "Spitsbergen property seems to have done well after, but I was left out in the cold"

1924       E Mansfield died in Leeds

1925       NEC valued at 0.5 million pounds

1925       Ratification of the Svalbard treaty, gave control of Spitsbergen to Norway

1926       The Company ceased production

1929       NEC declared insolvent/bankrupt

1932       The Company was taken over by the Norwegian government


A much more detailed list with over 500 entries and links to extensive

publishes newspaper articles and other material is kept in the Goldhanger Digital Archives

and a summary is available at. . . Catalogue of EM activities and documents


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Maps of the Svalbard Archipelago and Spitsbergen



Spitsbergen is approximately 120 miles wide and 230 miles long,

and as a comparison is slightly smaller than Ireland.

It is approximately 400 miles north of Norway.


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Extracts from the documents

relating to the expeditions and associated events


Extracts from Dr Salter`s Diaries . . .

Dr Salter of Tolleshunt D'Arcy in the county of Essex:

his diary and reminiscences from the year 1849 to the year 1932

published in 1936 by J. O. Thompson


Dr Salter

21 May1906   Made a director of the Spitsbergen Exploration Co.


18 July 1906   Dined at Goldhanger rectory and heard Revd. Gardner's story about
Spitsbergen, from which he had just returned. His account is wonderful and there seems to be great results looming over all participants, myself included.
20 Aug1908   A telegram that the Spitsbergen assay was 16grains per ton and
therefore "useless".


13 July1911   Letter came capsizing my plans for going to Spitsbergen.
I am out of it regarding polar bear and reindeer shooting.
My 70th birthday tomorrow too!

31 July 1911   Bombarded by newspaper men about Spitsbergen.

31 Jan1912   First meeting of Northern Exploration Co, Spitsbergen. There were
some splendid exhibitions of marble of all colours. It seems to me that things will now go.


25 Mar 1918   Clinched a deal with the Northern Exploration Co, receiving ₤1000 for
2100 shares. I think I am wise. (equiv. to ₤200K today)


10 Nov1918   Spitsbergen resuscitation (after 24 years)!


  6 Feb 1920   Spitsbergen property seems to have done well after all

- I am the poor chap left out in the cold!


10 Mar 1923   To Marconi House to see the installation than Mansfield has ordered to be put into my house at a cost of ₤120. (at the time ₤120 would be the price of an average house)


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From Dr Salter's Diary of reminiscences entitled:



At the end of 1904 a man and his wife came and took a cottage at Goldhanger, a village near here. The lady was expecting to be confined with her first baby, and I was asked to attend her. She was a nice, fresh, pretty-looking Scotch girl, and her husband was a man of extremely notable appearance. He was a man you would pick out in a crowd as being somewhat remarkable - a strong, well set-up, muscular man perhaps a little more than middle height, and evidently well versed in the things of this world.I suppose at that time he might be round about thirty. He had a most interesting face, dark, crisp, curly hair, a nice, open, intelligent dark-grey eye, good teeth, a well-shaped nose - not Jewish, but going to a poin - and a good, strong jaw.


His manner was pleasant. He was talkative, and at times inclined to talk somewhat at random so that you could not quite think that all he said was free from exaggeration. However, he said what he was - an adventurer, a mining prospector, had travelled a great deal under some very rough circumstances. Among other things he had taken a share in discovering the Wei Hei mines in New Zealand. He was also one of the few men who got safely to Klondyke. He went right across Australia in the dry season, a thing that had never been done previously. What was more, he was accompanied by another man whom he carried on his back during the last three days. I mention that because Mansfield - that was his name - was a man in every sense of the word. He always went for big game, but, as I say, to our sublunary minds he was given to exaggeration, and it might be that we were not educated up to it, for when he said anything extraordinary it seemed too extraordinary for us to understand.


His wife went through her confinement. It was a long and troublous time, but those were the days when the medical practitioners stuck to things themselves and would not hand them over to hospitals or homes. The child was a girl, and was worshipped by her parents, whom I came to reckon among my most devoted friends.


But I can't say that I took to Mansfield at first - he was so full of talk, and apparently of swagger, that I could not believe it was all real. For instance, in the morning after I had been there the whole night and had had enough to think of to turn a man's hair grey, Mansfield, who I suppose treated a confinement in the hands of a doctor as an everyday matter, was busy already about the house making it tidy, and as I went downstairs he greeted me with, " Now, Doctor, what is it to be, champagne, whisky, or what ? " when all I wanted was a wash and to go to bed.


But after a bit I got to know his valuable points, and I believed most that he told me. His geese were always swans, but I gathered that that is characteristic of prospectors for gold and so on. Their view seems to be proportionate to what they are looking for - copper is gold, crystal is a big diamond, and so forth. Well, one day I asked Mansfield to come to dine with me, and he came, and a parson came with him. This parson was then under my care [Ed. - Revd. Gardner, suffering from motor neuron disease]. I was recommending him to have a rest, and at this dinner - table we were talking of the places he might go to. Among others was a visit by one of Lunn's ships to the land of the Midnight Sun - up to Norway. As soon as I mentioned the Midnight Sun Mansfield got excited and said, " I wish you'd send me there, too, because all the gold that is undiscovered lies around the polar regions, and I'm sure there's a lot about the Arctic Circle, just as there is at Klondyke. That is where I'd go if I had the money. "


The divine warmed up at this, and they talked about it. Mansfield said he would fit the parson up with a miner's outfit, which meant a bag or sack containing certain tools adaptable to a man to carry on his back certain distances in prospecting for minerals. He would also tell our mutual friend where to go to make the best use of his time.


" When you get up there in Spitsbergen, " he said, " the snow will have melted, the sun will have bared the land, you will find a carpet of flowers everywhere, and the rivers, which have been roaring torrents during the late spring and early summer, will have discharged into the sea and will be fordable and comparatively empty. There is no end of these rivers, but you must remember this - that they have brought bits of rock long distances, which you will find at the corners. At the corners also you will find mud, which is disintegrated rock. That has been brought some distance, perhaps not so far. At any rate, make your way up some of these rivers, and into your sack put portions of this gritty stuff and mud and bits of rock, and when the other people are careering about eating cakes and dancing jigs under the Midnight Sun you will be using your time to much greater advantage. Bring your specimens home with memoranda as to where you got them, and we will see what they contain. "


We waited with a good deal of interest, and it was all done. We sent specimens of the bits of rock and of the mud to the principal assayers of the Bank of England, and asked them to give a report upon them. They found gold in small quantities in them all!


Mansfield then said, " I'm off myself now. " I said I would like to go also, but I had unfortunately to stay at home professionally, and, of course, you can only go to Spitsbergen when the seas are open. So I was left out of the picture. The other two went across by steamboat to Norway, and there hired a whaleboat in which they went up to our island. They went into the big Bell Sound there and they landed. They stayed prospecting, making maps, building cairns to show the localities, burying bits of parchment and so on to show each place that they had investigated. They found coal in large quantities, coming out of the rocks horizontally, so that you had nothing to do but pick your coal out, roll it down the mountainsides, and load it up in ships in deep water at the foot. I said, " Give me the coal, and you can. have the gold. "


They came back with certain parts of the country charted out, and to make our find secure we made our map ashore correspond with the cairns erected on the island, attaching to the portions of land the names of all the friends we had, so that we were really taking possession of the whole country. It was all well done. The gold and the coal were apportioned ; there was also oil, and marble, and all sorts of other things. We thus felt that we had possession of something of world - wide value.


Mansfield must have had a dreadful time, for he remained in Spitsbergen alone the whole of one winter. There was some reason why it was important that he should do so, and I do not think he could get his Norwegians to stay with him. He was there alone. There were awful storms, and he built himself a wooden shanty high up on the mountainside - of course on a mountain close to the sea, but apparently out of the way of any rising of the waters. The mountains get very quickly out of the sea and ascend to some heights. The water rises to abnormal heights, and on one particular night great icebergs came floating about, and, governed by eddies of air, began cannoning one another in the ocean. Mansfield heard a tremendous cannonade going on, and looking out saw nothing but icebergs round him, sailing about and gambolling together, making a diabolical noise. He thought his house would be annihilated, in which case it would not be safe for him to be inside, so he wrapped himself up in blankets and went and sat in a cave in the mountain - a long time, bitterly cold - and watched this storm of Nature such as he had never seen or conceived before.


"There I was, all alone" he told me "all those months, and the beautiful little silver foxes seemed only to require a bit of enticing to come in. They came in, and were just like our tame dogs at home. They would sit up and beg for food, and take their food in that way " - and he showed me photographs in proof. The skins of these silver foxes were worth about ₤40 apiece, and the strange thing was that as soon as the Norwegians came in the spring they sloped. Close to Mansfield's house one morning there were three polar bears, and he brought a skin of a huge bear home for me.


The " Captain " of our mine, in charge of our works there, was Maugham, a very reliable man who did not speak much, but on his way home on one occasion he happened to let fall a word on board ship, which word was carried to somebody else. Before he got on to the jetty that fact had been communicated to some other person there, and in no time it was all over London, so that on the evening of August 1st, 1911, when I had a small dinner - party at my house, the country roads of Essex around us were thick with motor - cars bearing newspaper men wanting to know if it was true that I had found gold in Spitsbergen ! I mention this to show the enterprise of those who are on the look - out for news.


People naturally asked, " How is it that you have discovered it after all these years ? ", " Has nobody else ever been there ? "", " Oh yes, " the answer was, " but they were Norwegians, and they only go to cut up whales and are frightened to death of going over the mountainsides for fear of seeing hobgoblins ; they just go and cut up their whales and get back as soon as they can , they have no enterprise. "


Now how were we to tackle this business ? To take possession of a huge continent almost, like Spitsbergen, was a mighty big order. Did no country own it ? Where was Norway ? Where was Sweden ? Where was Denmark ? Where was England ? Where was anybody ? Surely we could get somebody on proof of value to say, " Yes, we'll own it. "


We went to the Ambassadors of the different countries and of Russia - of every country we could - asking them if they would own this. They all said No, it was of no use to them at all. We even went to America, but no country would have anything to do with it.


Now, as I understood it, upon proof that we were the first discoverers we could not be deprived of our primary right to proprietorship, however much we might be in default through not being able to put our hands into our pockets and seek and work the mines. A first discoverer can claim all the while he sits on it. If he relinquishes it his next - door neighbour can go and sit on it, and it may become his. So I had the plans made compact, and I drew up on parchment a statement of what we had done - that we had discovered certain minerals for the first time in the Island of Spitsbergen which were ours by the right of first discovery, the strongest right you can have in regard to any mineral find. I had cases made containing the documents and maps, and got Barclays Bank to put them away in their iron safe in Lombard Street. I then went along to the Foreign Office and saw Lord Percy, Private Secretary to Lord Lansdowne, the Foreign Minister. He and I talked for two or three hours. I said I wanted England to take possession of the whole of Spitsbergen. He said, " I'll do anything I can for you so long as it is not a casus belli - we can't fight about it. "


" I understand, " I said, " but I want you to take facsimiles of my documents in Barclays and pigeonhole them in the Foreign Office. " He said they would do that with pleasure, and it was done.


Some years after we formed a private company to which we subscribed about ₤9,000, but of course that was not nearly enough. We could put up no more, and so far as we were concerned the whole thing then fizzled out. It then got into the hands of Londoners, Germans, and Americans, who are still making a lot of money out of our original discoveries. Mansfield, however, did not lose his hold. He made what market he could.


I being the only person who could substantiate the find, on a certain day I went to the cellars of Barclays in London, where the safe was opened by the Sheriff and others wearing chains of office, and we had quite a ceremony of my breaking the seal, showing the contents to those who were going to be interested, and doing it all up again.


Mansfield died in 1923 or 1924, and who is now doing all the big business I know not. All I know now is that if we did anything it would be a casus belli for us! Your name on maps certainly strikes you as being very important at the time, but it does not constitute possession, and you may depend upon it that if we had had any real colours to fly we would have flown them.

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The Revd. Gardner's Involvement


The Revd. Gardner

The Goldhanger & Little Totham Parish magazines of the period refer to four summer trips made by the Revd. Gardner in 1904, 1905, 1906 & 1907. The first two just refer to trips "to the far north".




The Revd. Gardner's obituary...

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Ernest Mansfield

Ernest Mansfield - Gold or I'm a Dutchman the full biography written by Susan Barr, David Newman & Greg Nesteroff in 2012, and was published by

Akademika, now part of Fagbokforlaget based in Bergen, and remains available throughout the world.

Short extracts are available here at... Mansfield's biography extracts.pdf

A short video has also been produced about the life of Ernest at...

During the research for the biography undertaken over several years by the authors, many events that took place during Mansfield's life, together with numerous newspaper articles and other documents were identified, and have been recorded and catalogued in chronological order. The catalogue is at . . .

Catalogue of EM activities and documents

Ernest Mansfield the Author

Ernest Mansfield wrote two books while "over wintering" alone in his isolated cabin on Spitsbergen. His first book entitled: ASTRIA - The Ice Maiden, at first sight appears to be just a novel, but in fact has a large amount of autobiographic information within it. The book begins with a generous dedication to Dr Salter explaining how he has taken the doctors advice on writing the book. He also explains that his principle character Daric Clittiem "somewhat reminds me of a man I always met at your home" and appears to be based on himself. (A "Daric" was a gold coin used in the Persian Empire, but the origin of "Clittiem" has not yet been determined).


The first two chapters of the book seem to be a very factual recollection of his early life and initial experiences on Spitsbergen in Advent Dale and Bay. They include:


"I went to Spitsbergen with an English clergyman" can only be a reference to Revd. Gardner.


"I telegraphed for an Englishman to come at once. He was a good all round man, just the sort to help me lick a camp into shape", and later. . "I'll stay if you like Mr. Clittiem, " was the last appeal of my man. " I don't like leaving you alone like this! " "I'm all right Charlie, " I replied, These two quotations probably refer to Charles Mann.


Chapter - 3 begins with an encounter with polar bears which results in injury, a loss of consciousness, and the start of an unreal world of dreams that continues for the remainder of the book.


The cover, title page, dedication to Dr Salter are included here. . .






I wonder if you ever think of the night we spent together in London, when your friend, the Baronet, was with us? I say your friend, but he has been mine too, and a good one. Most likely such a trifling incident, as that to which I allude, would not linger long in cither of your memories, but it will never be effaced from. mine. It was a most delightful evening. But it is not because you and your friend regaled me so lavishly, that causes me to remember, if was your kindly thought of making my last night in England a pleasant one! That I shall never forget!


What a number of experiences I have had since then! Some were awful, others terrifying! There was the time when the waves of a maddened sea surrounded me, and threatened to sweep away my house and all my 'belongings - Aye ! and me too! For three long days and nights the seething foam of a furious sea swept around my home continually, surging up the banks of my lonely shack, pouring its waters through the windows, saturating everything! During the storm everything was black - except the sea. That was white! Giant waves were lashed into a milky fury, making a noise like. cackling thunder as the crests curled over the waters


And boomed like guns as mountainous volumes struck the shore. ! It rained, hailed, and snowed the whole of f]ic time. 1 had to flee from the house again, and again, fearing every moment all would be swept away. In doing so, I had to wade through the flying surf up to my knees. When in the open, the elements were stinging, and I was forced to seek the shelter of my wave - washed house, to escape being frozen to death. Oh! how I longed for some companion! But I was in a lonely world, with everything silent, except the roaring, raging sea!


But winds wilder than the waves were mad. They battered and threatened my staunch. little shanty all through the long Arctic night. These were more trying than the, troubled waters ! For ten months I was alone ! No one to speak to - not a soul! Ten months! It is a long time. to live in solitude, and in that frozen world where I was the only inhabitant, every moment seemed to he accentuated. There were times when I would willingly have given five years of my life, for the pleasure often minutes conversation with a Britisher. But such a boon was impossible. I was cut off from the world; with no hope of a word from anyone, or news from anywhere. Absolutely alone, in an uninhabited country, frozen harder than adamant!


My intention was to embody some of these experiences in the pages that follow, but they would smack of egotism, so that is why they are omitted.


It was a curious coincidence my falling in with Daric Clittiem. I respectfully draw your attention - to this character, 'because he somewhat reminds me of a man I always met at your home, whenever it was my

privilege to be your guest - an honor often mine. You will probably observe the resemblance too.


In my many visits to your hospitable house, you always interested yourself in my rambles around the world. Whenever I submitted sketches of my travels for your perusal, you improved them by valuable aid, knocking the ugly corners from my chunks of fact and rounding them into more shapely phrase. Even such a fragment as this book undoubtedly is, it could not possibly have been accorded the light of public print, but for your help. It is not only to your work that I ant indebted, but to your sacrifice and patience. I appreciate and am grateful to you for your many labors on my behalf, and it is the reason why I have taken the liberty to dedicate to you, this my first book.


I Remain

My Dear Doctor,

Yours Gratefully and Faithfully,


Tolleshunt D'arcy, Essex.


Few copies of this paperback book seemed to have survived so it has been digitised in full and can be read in full at…

Astria - The Ice Maiden

There is a large Science Fiction aspect to the book and it contains several amazing scientific predictions made in 1911, some of which have since been proven to be remarkably accurate. These are at...

Ernest's Scientific Predictions

Ernest Mansfield's second book published in 1913 is entitled "Ralph Raymond". In contrast with the lack of promotional material associated with his first book or many surviving copies, the second book appears to have been given plenty of publicity, anf many more copies still survive. The book is again semi - autobiographical and Ernest has used his experiences in a New Zealand to create a novel based on a gold prospector accused of a murder.


Within Ralph Raymond the biographical content is spread thinly throughout the book, so is less evident and more difficult to separate from the fiction than in Astria - The Ice Maiden. Ralph Raymond also has many personal philosophical beliefs and opinions which are not conveyed in the first book. See... Review of Ralph Raymond ... page-72 in EM articles.


From his earliest days as a journalist in New Zealand, Ernest was a prolific writer, author and publicist. A collection of his writings, plus words written about him by others during and at the end of his life, have been collected together and are available at. . .

Ernest Mansfield - Journalist, Author and Publicist

Ernest in the Great War

Despite his age Ernest Mansfield spent three years serving in the forces during the Great War as a private the 23rd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers Regiment, also known as the First Sportsman's Battalion. This information was kindly given to us by William Mackain - Bremner of Houston, Texas, who discovered it as part of research into his relative Fergus Mackain, a cartoonist and illustrator who served in the same regiment. William's website about Fergus, with many examples of his cartoons and caricatures relating to the regiment is at... One of Fergus's caricatures has a remarkable resemblance to Ernest.

At the age of 52 Ernest enlisted with the rank of private in London and received initial training at "Grey Towers" in Hornchurch, Essex. Grey Towers was a new military depot and was rapidly erected with many wooden huts in the extensive grounds of an imposing house and was ready for occupation by November 1914. It became the Battalion Headquarters of the 23rd Royal Fusiliers, otherwise known as the First Sportsman's Battalion. It was a unit based on proficient sportsmen who, by special dispensation, could be recruited up to the age of 45 years, whereas a the upper age limit for recruitment at that time was normally 38. So either he falsified his age or a "blind eye" was shown to those over age but keen to enlist. Most were amateur sportsmen, including amongst others were: footballers, cricketers, oarsmen and mountaineers, big - game hunters, There were also authors, artists, clergymen, engineers, actors and archaeologists, and they came from all over the world. Ernest would have been in his element.

Very early in his army career at Hornchurch, Ernest became a member of the editorial committee of a weekly regimental magazine called: The Sportsman's Gazette, with the nominal role of Advertising Manager, and he used his experiences and skills as journalist, author and poet to write a variety of articles for the magazine. Several of these are included on this website at. . . Ernest Mansfield - Journalist, Author and Publicist. As the last of these articles reveals however, he gave up "his position on the executive staff" when the regiment left Hornchurch.

From his military records. . .

Enlisted Oct 1914 (he was 52 yrs old at the time)

Service number: 1104

Posted to France with his regiment in Nov 1915 and was on "active service" for 23 months

Discharged from the army in Nov 1917 at the age 55yrs old. Reason given for discharge was "increasing age"

Completed 3yrs service and was awarded the usual three WW - 1 campaign medals: The 1914 Star or 1914 - 15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal, these were affectionately know as "Pip, Squeak and Wilfred".

The history of the regiment is well recorded in a book by Capt. Fred W. Ward published in 1920 and entitled:

The 23rd Battalion Royal Fusiliers (First Sportsman's) - A Record of its Services in The Great War, 1914 - 1919

available in full on - line at. . . - h/20377 - h.htm

Some statistics from that book:

The initial strength of the Battalion: 1000 men

Number of men who served during the the war: 5000

Killed or missing in action, and died of wounds: 930

Wounded in action: 2300

Ernest is listed in the book in The Nominal Roll on page 156 with the service number of 1104, but otherwise is not mentioned

A book written by Charles Thomas Perfect published in 1920 and entitled:

Hornchurch During the Great War: An Illustrated Account of Local Activities and Experiences

has 18 pages about the regiment while it was based at Hornchurch, (beginning on page 139) and is available on-line at. . . - During - The - Great - War/files/assets/basic - html/page146.html

Page 162 of the book has an abridged version of Ernest's article in the Sportsman's Gazette entitled "Good - Bye, Hornchurch", however, Ernest is not identified as author.

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Articles in The London and New York Times

There were several articles in The Times of the period referring to the Northern Exploration Company and Ernest Mansfield. They can be accessed in the Times Digital Archive. Access the search page and search for: "exploration + Spitsbergen" Snippet views of some of these articles are below. . .


A long report on the 27 June 1919

A report on the 26 Sept 1919

A report on the 7 April 1920









An article in The New York Times

of August 1911



This is a "snippet" view only


To see the full article go to website. . .


New York Times Article Archive


And. . .


New York Times: Search for mansfield Spitsbergen



Many other newspaper articles referring to Ernest Mansfield and NEC have been found

and are referenced in Ernests' biography and are catalogued the Goldhanger Digital Archives


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NEC shares Prospectus's

Copies of the 1911 and 1913 Northern Exploration Company share sale prospectus's remains in the possession of family of one the group. They have kindly allowed sections of it to be digitised and held in the Goldhanger Digital Archives with extracts published in Ernest Mansfield's biography. These prospectus's were expensively produced as hard - back books with "NEC" gilded on the cover and had gold leaf edging.

The 1911 version contains printed versions of letters and testimonials from the company directors and employees. Included in the prospectus are:


Title page

Statement by the Revd Gardner

Photo of Ernest Mansfield

An interview with Dr Salter


Letters by C Mann & G Alexander

Foreword by Sir Martin Conway

A report by Charles Mann

Ernest Mansfield memoir

Share application form


Sir Martin Conway was a well know explorer of that era and claimed to be the first to cross Spitsbergen. He wrote "No Man's Land, a History of Spitsbergen" published in 1906. In this book he envisaged "Spitsbergen as a Summer resort".

Other letters, testimonials and reports include assessments of the various minerals found by other experts and letters from Dr Salter and bank managers about the "sealed case" kept in a Colchester bank vault since 1906 that provides their evidence of NEC staff having the first claim to the lands. There are also testimonials about the healthiness of the location.

The 1911 prospectus avoids referring to "Spitsbergen" or other locations on the island by name, instead "N" is used to refer to Spitsbergen. Other locations include: B.K., T.C., S.B., etc. Although "Marble Island" is referenced to many times, this was probably their own name for the island. There are also references to the "C.M. " coal mine, which was probably based on Charles Mann's name. Presumably the authors wanted maximum publicity for the prospectus and for their finds, but no reveal the exact locations to avoid initiating what might have been another "gold rush".


The only photograph in the 1911 prospectus is the professionally produced image of Ernest that is used on the cover of the biography that is shown above. Ernest Mansfield gives his address in the book as The Limes, Tolleshunt D'arcy.


The 1913 version of the prospectus which is entitled "Marble Island" also contains printed versions of letters and testimonials. It is similar in appearance to the 1911 version, but is a larger document with many more testimonials from "experts" around the world. It also has a collection of photographs taken on the "island" and a large number of coloured photos of marble samples.

map included in the 1913 Marble Island prospectus


Two of Ernest`s letters published in the book are in...  Ernest - the journalist, author and publicist - his articles (pages 66 & 69)


Some of the photographs shown below are taken from the "Marble Island" prospectus.

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Photographs from the time

Many photographs remain in the possession of the families of those original involved. The family of Charles Mann have the original box camera pictures from his trips preserved in an album. There are many photos within the 1913 "Marble Island " prospectus which is still held by one of the families and David Booth's family have a collection of his photographs from the 1912 trip. With permission of these families, copies are held in the History Archives and over 30 are included in Ernest Mansfield's biography. Low resolution versions of some of the others are presented below. Some pictures have annotations on the front (probably C Mann's hand writing), others have annotations on the back (probably by E Mansfield), these are repeated below...


E Mansfield & C Mann                G Alexander & C Mann                       C Mann & G Alexander                             E Mansfield & C Mann

             on S.S. Muligan                             on S.S. Muligan                                                                                              surveying Marble Island



Ernest Mansfield            C Mann & G Alexander with miners            Ernest outside his summer tent                   Ernest with a miner



                                        "Repairing  the  House"                                            Landing  timbers  1910                   "My  Camp  with  Englishman  who  spent  summer  1908  with  me"




                  Naming  the  Camp                  Leisure  hour  at  Managers  quarters              Blacksmiths  shop  Camp  Morton



             Zoe  at  Marble  Island                                                     NEC  ship  at  the  Marble  Island  crane                                           Zoe  leaving  Tromso



Zoe  at  the  Marble  Island  crane                            Camp  Zoe  with  Russian  visitors                                            Camp  Maples



                     Ernest  with  a  Russia  visitor                                            Ernest  at  Camp  Lagercrantz  on  Marble  Island                         A  worker  outside  a  Marble  Island  cabin



Channeler  being  built  at  Marble  Island                           Workshop  &  store  at  Marble  Island                               Seal  skinning  at  Marble  Island



building  the  rail  line                                                                                            moving  the  first  engine



Ny - London 

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Recent  photographs  of  Spitsbergen  


                  Camp  Mansfield


Camp  Mansfield

Ny - Alesund with the former Ny - London houses on the left in  foreground


The  Quay  at  Ny - Alesund


Recent YouTube videos and images on the web

Videos short video about the life of Ernest Mansfield by UiT Norges arktiske universitet quarry re-discovered the Camp Mansfield cabin hut detecting at Marble quarry by Frigga Kruse, University of Groningen


Webpages with still images“The Mansfield myth” - The Norwegian Polar Institute The Norwegian Polar Institute quarry re-discovered - University of Groningen Island - 3 photos Mansfield – 4 photos Mansfield – several photos, metalwork & Camp Mansfield hut Mansfield – 20 photos (select “next”) Miller Miller miller Miller & Mansfield (scroll down) Miller



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