Charles Mann


1884  -  1967

Charles James Mann played a major role in village life in the first half of the 20th century and lived in The Square from 1900 to the 1950s. He was chairman of the Parish Council, a lifelong bellringer, a member of the Church choir, school manager, builder, carpenter and undertaker, and a vice-president of the Village Hall committee at the time the hall was being built. He was one of the group of Goldhanger residents who travelled to Spitzbergen several times to prospect for gold in the early 1900s. He was landlord of the Chequers Inn for two years between 1925 and 1926, and was listed in Kelly's Directory as the landlord. He lived and worked for most of his life at Sunnyside in The Square.


The Square and Cycle Shop    The Square & Mann's Shop

Charles Mann's shop and home in the early 1900s

In the left photo Charles is in the centre with members of his family

In the photo on the right Charles is in the middle of the picture

The sign over the shop reads:


wheelwrights,   carpenter,   painter,   funerals completely furnished,   cycles - repairs - accessories


Spitzbergen Expeditions

Charlie Mann travelled to Spitzbergen in 1906, 1908 and possibly 1910 with Ernest Mansfield, the Revd. Frederick Gardner and George Alexander prospecting for gold. He took his box camera with him and returned with many photographs. These three have Charles in the picture. . .

with miners     with Mansfield     with tent

Mansfield and Mann


The Northern Exploration Company was formed by the group in 1910. And two letters written by Charles Mann were published in their first Prospectus in 1911. . .




January 21st, 1911.

Dear Sir,

With regard to " Marble Island," which I visited in 1906 with Mr. Ernest Mansfield and Geo. Alexander, I have pleasure in giving you the following facts:-

It is a Mountain-Island in a splendid harbour navigable to the largest ships afloat. The island is, I estimate, 3 by 4 miles, an area of about 12 square miles. Easy slopes from shore to summit, which has altitude of about 2,000 feet. The sides are safe for climbing, accessible, and easily worked. There are many streams of running water, some serviceable for motive power.

Eider ducks and many varieties of wild sea-fowl abound, and, in the breeding season, there are countless edible eggs. There is a little moss and drift in places but, for the most part, the marble is exposed and nude. There are also Bear, Walrus, and Seal; and Reindeer are near in great numbers.

There are on the Island plenty of splendid sites suitable for villages, and works, etc., and roads could be easily constructed. Houses on the "Camp Bell" principle would be admirable here. The landing is exceptional. Snug Inlets of deep, clear water run in many places right into the marble cliffs, deep enough to bring ordinary ships or lighters close up to the marble. This would be found of great .service in loading. For this reason it would not be necessary to have a large expenditure at the outset on the means of conveying the marble from quarry to ship. A crane on the ship and a hand-crane on land would make a good start, quarrying away at first a useful roadway.

The Island we found to be marble everywhere, a huge marble mountain; not merely seams of marble, but a solid mass of marble different from all other mountains I've seen. As we walked from shore to summit we passed over a rich variety of colours and sorts. What we are seen standing on in the photographs (one is taken within 500 yards from the other) is a richly ornamental marble handsomely streaked with jasper and other colours. The samples you have are all loose surface-stuff which we merely prised off with a crowbar near the shore. The marble deeper in the rock is of course much superior. White, red, deep green, black, and other varieties we tried to get, but we could not force it with our crowbars; and, as we were determined to keep the discovery a secret from the sailors (left in the boat), no shots were fired into the solid.

In other parts I found a very lovely marble, pure white, tinted and streaked with pale green. This marble, even as I saw it in the rough, appeared more beautiful than the marble mantle-pieces, etc., commonly seen in England. In other parts of the Island I saw marble strongly tinted with green, which led me to think of copper being the cause. The little water which covered it seemed also coloured green. In large areas where the marble has been smoothed and faced-up by nature, the various kinds were like a beautiful carpet.

There must be hundreds of millions of tons of rich valuable marble of every imaginable colour, the easy accessibility of which assures quarrying at a minimum cost, a vastly important matter. Here and there the rock has broken away, leaving perpendicular sides of the marble ready for quarrying. There are also in many places precipitous cliffs of beautiful marble overhanging the sea. To see this marble is to be greatly impressed, for it is a beautiful sight. It would be impossible for me to estimate the worth of this inexhaustible property.

Outside my own family and that of the Rev. F. T. Gardner, I have not mentioned this discovery to anyone.

Believe me,

Yours faithfully




Marble Is

Charles Mann and George Alexander

on Marble Island


The house that Charles Mann built called Camp Bell at Varsolbukta, Bellsund. . .

with hut

Charles Mann outside Camp Bell on its completion


1917            Camp Bell 5

          Camp Bell in 1917                                                        Camp bell in more recent years

In this second letter "N" is a pseudonym for Spitsbergen as the team didn't wish to reveal the exact location. . .




January 31st, 1911

Dear Sir,

At your request I have pleasure in giving you the following brief but accurate statement of my time in "N". My first visit was in 1900, lasting over three months, July, August, and September. The party consisted of Mr. Ernest Mansfield, the Rev. Gardner, M,A. of Goldhanger Rectory, Geo- Alexander, and myself (Englishmen), and thirteen Norwegians (S.S. Mulygan).

We first landed at B.A,, and walked up the valley for twelve hours. At certain stages of this journey we staked off claims. From there we went back to S.B. and staked off all the Northern Side in different names. We left miners at Camp 21. From there we went right to Marble Island district which we prospected. Three (E.M, G.A., and myself) landed on the Island. We left the Island, and crossed the Bay to the other side, where we landed, and, at from 3 to 13 feet depth in the drift, we found in the washings traces of gold, indicating gold in greater quantities below.

We left there, and took ship back to Camp 21. Then I went with four Norwegians in a rowing boat and properly staked off in different names the country up No. 10 Valley; and from there round the coast to B. Ray. After this we returned to Camp 21. Then I timbered up the headings which had been driven into the newly discovered coal seams, one on each side of the mountain gully. We stayed at the mines about six weeks, leaving Norwegians in charge when we left.

In 1908 my second visit to "N", to build houses, I built "Camp Bell". It took seven weeks to build. Timber and everything was brought from nearest port. "Camp Bell" is a strong, roomy house. It is constructed of timbers three-inch thick (3 by 9); felted inside and out, and match-boarded over felt. It is banked up on the outside three feet high with stones. Proper earth closet.

The stoves, one in store-room, and one in living room, are good, portable and reliable; standing on sheet of iron about 4 ft square. It is impossible for it to fire if the chimney overheat, because of the l8in- air-space between pipe and wood. There are two windows in sitting-room with shutters inside and out. It is important that I should state that, not far from the house (Camp Bell) I found solid rock-conglomerate, in which I could, with the naked eye, discern fine specks of gold, after hammering bits off. This was when I was by myself.

I also saw signs of Oil - a greasy surface on water - but my memory cannot fix the exact spot now. The climate, I found, suited me well, I am subject to colds in England, but never had an approach to a cold in N, in fact I did not require a handkerchief all the time I was there; and I only wore ordinary clothing. While staking off the south side of the Sound, there was abundant evidence of seams of Cannel Coal. We filled our sacks with pieces of it, and some of the pieces weighed 40 to 50 Ibs., too large to bring with us.

Believe me,

Yours faithfully,






Camp Bell today is a tourist location


During the 1908 trip Charles Mann also renovated an existing building at Kolfjellet, Van Mijenfjorden, that was known as Michelsenhuset, which Ernest Mansfield and he re-named Camp Morton, after the Earl of Morton, who was a share-holder. They can be seen standing outside their summer tent, while Norwegian workers line the roof of the building with rocks for insulation. . .


Camp Morton being renovated - Charles in 2nd from left


Camp Morton 5    Michelsenhususet in 2010

Camp Morton in 1917                                        Camp Morton today


Adjacent to Camp Morton, Charles built another cabin, which can just be seen to the left in the 1917 photo above. Charles named this cabin Clara Ville, after his aunt Clara whom he was living with at Goldhanger at the time. It is still know by that name and with Camp Morton is today used by the Longyearbyen snowmobile club called To-takteren . . .

Camp Morton 6      Isfjord Radio 069b

Clara Ville in the 1990s                                    Clara Ville today         .


Camp Morton 14

Clara Ville and Camp Morton

Charles at Goldhanger

Charles main activity during his many working years was undoubtedly as the local builder and there are many buildings in the village that remain a testimony to his, and his son Bernard's endeavours over a fifty year period.

Undertaker    Mann, Charles with Geoff Appleton

as the undertaker                   as the carpenter



Charles Mann and his son Bernard built this unique funeral bier.

It is made of oak and has pneumatic tyres.

Some of the oak could well have come from the old oak bell frame

removed from the bell tower in 1952.


The Square & C Mann's Shop

Charlie's shop and home in The Square in the 1950s

( the house is now the Salty Dogs Tearooms )

Charles the bellringer

Charles was a lifelong bellringer at St Peters Church, this plaque in the tower shows him participated in a two and a half hour peal in 1910. . .

1910 - Peal plaque in bell tower


1940s ringers     Bellringers in 1951

Charles with bellringers in the 1940s                     Charles with bellringers in 1951           .

An Obituary

This obituary for Charles Mann appeared in the Parish Magazine in 1967. . .

Mann, Charles - obituary

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