Walter Mansfield

Monumental Mason Makes Mischief (1917)

This wasn’t Walter’s first time in court. Back in 1896, he was there for assault charges against the Sexton of Karori Cemetery, Ernest Nash. The following year he claimed and won £5 damages from Nash for sending him to a fake address to enquire about a new headstone. In 1899 Walter was fined 40s for assaulting Nash. In 1906 Frederick Kilmister claimed £29 damages for Walter’s dogs worrying his sheep. Walter ended up paying £17.

24 March 1917, two local stonemasons Donald McVicar and Thomas Walker asked that Walter Mansfield be bound over to keep the peace.

‘The allegations were than on February 21st last, in the sacred precincts of Karori cemetery, Mansfield did use certain insulting and provoking language to complainants, and were afraid if he repeated the dose they might forget themselves and “stoush” him’.

McVicar said that Walter accused him of smothering up his maker’s mark on a headstone. A terse conversation followed.

Some choice excerpts from the case:

“You get your jobs by _____ crawling”

“Morris the undertaker is the dirty ____ who is running you”

“You were drummed out of the army and I can prove it”

“Did somebody hit him on the head with a wet brush?”

Walter’s defence lawyer said that covering up a maker’s mark was as bad as if a painter restored a picture and painted over the original artist’s name. When pressed by the complainant’s lawyer for the names of the afflicted headstones, Walter said he could not remember them but could point them out in the cemetery.

John Hickmott, another monumental mason also gave evidence that Mansfield ‘started the barney’.

Magistrate Reid decreed that in the interests of all parties it was advisable that Walter should be bound to keep the peace for six months towards both men, and that he would be required to enter into a personal surety of £50 to do so. Costs were also allowed against him.

At this point in his career, Walter had been a stone mason in Wellington for 27 years. He completed many fine works that we can still see today.

Walter Simeon Mansfield was born Water Stratford, Buckinghamshire, England in 1860. His father was a farmer and stone mason. He emigrated to New Zealand on the ‘Loch Dee’ barque in 1882 and Walter married Ada Steffert in 1886. Ada was the daughter of a German settler. Together they had eight children (Ada, Reuben, Arthur, NR, Bessie, Clara, Walter and Leonard). Two of their infant children are interred at Bolton Street Cemetery. Ada died in 1937 and is interred at Karori Cemetery in what is quite a modest plot design by comparison to the work her husband undertook (Ch Eng/U/208).

Walter died in 1953, age 93, and his estate was valued at £119. He was cremated at Karori Cemetery but there is no headstone to his memory. Instead his name is remembered on hundreds of beautiful headstones around Karori. Do look out for them when you next visit.