Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Mansfield, Robert Blachford

MANSFIELD, ROBERT BLACHFORD (1824–1908), author and oarsman, born at Rowner, Hampshire, on 1 Feb. 1824, was second son of John Mansfield, rector of Rowner, and younger brother of Charles Blachford Mansfield [q. v.]. His mother was Winifred, eldest daughter of Robert Pope Blachford, of Osborne House, Isle of Wight. After attending preparatory schools at Romsey and Guildford, he was admitted to the foundation of Winchester College in 1835, the first year of Dr. Moberly's headmastership. There he spent five years, of which he wrote later a lively accoimt, but he never rose above the status of a fag. Two private tutors, one of whom was William Henry Havergal [q. v.], prepared him for Oxford, where he matriculated as a commoner at University College in 1842, graduating B.A. in 1846. Admitted student of Lincoln's Inn in 1845, he was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1849, and joined the western circuit, but never practised seriously.

Mansfield long lived a roving life, in Scotland and on the Continent. An excellent shot, he visited the moors of Scotland almost every year from 1843 to 1859, and was one of the first Englishmen to take up golf, which he first learned at Pau in 1857, and afterwards introduced at Southampton, Malvern, Winchester, and Brighton. But his fame rests on his prowess with the oar. Coached by a more famous oarsman, F. N. Menzies, in his freshman's year (1842-3), he helped to raise his college boat to the head of the river. He also rowed in 1843, as a temporary substitute, in the Oxford crew that afterwards with seven oars beat Cambridge at Henley. In the following year (1844) he broke down when in training for the university race. The pioneer of English rowing on the rivers of Germany, he recorded his achievements in two books, which, first published anonymously, passed through many editions : 'The Log of the Water-Lily (four-oared Thames gig), during a Rowing Excursion on the Rhine and other Streams of Germany. By an Oxford Man and a Wykehamist' (1851 ; 2nd ed. 1854) ; and 'The Water-Lily on the Danube, being a Brief Account of the Perils of a Pair Oar, during a voyage from Lambeth to Pesth. Illustrated by one of the Crew' (1852). A third trip down the Saone and Rhone in France was less successful. He described his companions on these expeditions in 'New and Old Chips from an Old Block' (1896), a little volume of good autobiographical gossip. The record of another portion of his life is contained in 'School Life at Winchester College, or the Reminiscences of a Winchester Junior, with a Glossary of Words, &c., peculiar to the College' (1866), of which a third edition appeared on the occasion of the quingentenary celebration (1893). He also edited a posthumous work by his brother Charles on 'Aerial Navigation' (1877), and 'Letters from the Camp before Sebastopol' by Col. C. F. Campbell (1894), a dearly loved cousin, whom he visited in the Crimea at the close of the war. Late in life he finally settled down in London, becoming a member of the vestry and guardian for St. George's, Hanover Square.

Mansfield died at Linden House, Headington, on 29 April 1908. He married on 29 July 1858, at the British embassy, Brussels, Sophie, daughter of Lieut.-colonel L'Estrange of Moystown, King's Co., Ireland, by whom he had two daughters,

[The Times, 19 May 1908.]

J. S. C.