1.3. Peter Stavers (1784-1867) and Captain Wilkinson Stavers (1830-1864)


    John Stavers’ second son, the brother of Japan Jack, either never took to seafaring or abandoned it early on, becoming a farmer and innkeeper. He was for many years the innkeeper of the White Swan at Seaton, near to the family farm at Woodburn. But he also had his own farm close to the family one, and in the 1861 census described himself as a retired farmer. He and his wife are buried at St Cuthbert’s churchyard in Bedlington; their gravestone also commemorates his son Wilkinson and the latter’s wife, who were lost at sea. Peter’s household effects were auctioned after his death. They were advertised in the local press as consisting of:


Mahogany Sofa in hair seating, Mahogany Chest of Drawers, Mahogany Dining and Turnover Tables, Mahogany Wash Stand, chairs in hair seating, 6 Birch Chairs, Desk Bedstead, Flocks Bed, Bolster and Mattress, excellent Chimney Glass, Dressing Glass, German Clock, Brass Stair Rods, Oval Work Table, Tea Table, Kitchen Tables, Window Pole and Cornice, Clothes Horse, Fenders and Fire Irons, Pots, Pans, and other Kitchen Requisites.(1)


   Of his several children, most had fairly menial occupations – his eldest son was variously a coalminer and a cartman. His youngest son by his wife Sarah Wilkinson, Captain Wilkinson Stavers, however, followed the family tradition and went to sea. He gained his mate’s ticket in 1855 and his master’s ticket in 1858 at the age of 27.(2) He married Hannah Watts the following year, the daughter of a shipmaster from Blyth.  


    It was quite common for masters of merchant ships to take their wives – and sometimes their children – with them on shorter journeys. In 1864, he took Hannah with him on the brig Robert and Mary (a brig was a smallish sailing ship with two square-rigged masts which had the advantage of being fast and manoeuvrable and which was much used for general cargo).  On its return journey from Riga to Blyth, carrying a cargo of sleepers, the ship went bottom up in a storm off Elsinore in Denmark. The young couple and the entire crew (7 people in all) perished. (3) A gravestone was erected to the memory of Wilkinson and Hannah at St Cuthbert, Bedlington. They do not appear to have had any children. Wilkinson’s will was proved in 1865; he was described as a master mariner late of Crofton, Blyth.


Ships commanded by Wilkinson Stavers

Rival 1861-63

Robert and Mary (snow built 1849) 1863-1864




(1) Morpeth Herald 2.3.1867

(2) Master’s Certificates, National Maritime Museum

(3) Newcastle Daily Chronicle 1.9.1864