Visit our Local Hero display on our first floor in Woking's Story to find out more about Hilary Mantel.

Hilary Mantel was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, and attended school in Romiley, Cheshire. She read law at the London School of Economics and Jurisprudence at the University of Sheffield, then working in the social work department of a geriatric hospital before becoming a sales assistant in Manchester. She married in 1972 and began to write novels in 1985, becoming the film critic for The Spectator between 1987 and 1991.

Throughout her childhood, Mantel suffered ill health. She is quoted as saying, “pain stole my life”. In her 20s she was diagnosed with mental health problems and hospitalised. Doctors thought her condition was due to “ambition.” She was prescribed Valium amongst other drugs. Her treatment during this period stopped her from seeking further medical advice to diagnose her ill health.
In the mid-1970s Mantel moved to Botswana with her husband. During her time in Botswana, she diagnosed her health problems as endometriosis. In later life, she became patron of Endometriosis SHE Trust.

In 2001, she moved with her husband to the penthouse apartment at Florence Court, part of the former Brookwood Hospital complex, where for 10 years, she enjoyed the peace and quiet of having her study in the former clock tower and being able to go out on the balcony and enjoy the view towards Guildford Cathedral. While living in Florence Court she wrote Giving up the Ghosts, Beyond and Wolf Hall, possibly her best-known novel for which she was awarded The Booker Prize in 2009. Wolf Hall and her next novel, Bring Up The Bodies, both with Tudor themes, were together dramatised for the stage and television, the latter title also winning The Booker in 2012.
Mantel went on to be awarded a CBE in 2006, was appointed DBE in 2014 and in 2020 was awarded Companion of Literature, the highest award given by the Royal Society of Literature.

Mantel held strong views on mental health and womanhood. She fought against the prejudice of women writing about family life, dismissed by critics as domestic novels. Mantel struggled with ill health for most of her life but people who met her noted her humour.
Mantel died aged 70 on 22nd September 2022 in Exeter. She had suffered a stroke three days earlier. Mantel was working on an 18th century novel at the time of her death.

Free entry

Banner image credit: Mantel in her study in Florence Court, part of the former Brookwood Hospital complex. Photograph by Nigel Shafran.