The barque Stavers, commissioned in 1869 by Captain George Stavers



I began writing this essay because I had inherited a number of papers (together with a chronometer saved from a burning ship) from the family of my great-grandfather, Captain George Stavers (1825-1891). I soon discovered that he had a number of cousins who were famous whaling captains, so I decided to expand the essay to cover these as well, although they are not in my direct line of ascent.


Note on sources. Dates of birth, marriage or death are mainly taken from parish records or official birth, marriage and death records. In some cases the date of birth is calculated from the age given on census forms. Approximate dates of birth are given in such cases or where only the date of baptism is known. While census records are generally reliable (although less so for the teeming streets of Rotherhithe and East London than for Northumberland), they do not always record the whereabouts of members of the Stavers family who were at sea on census day.


Information on ships and captaincies is largely taken from the Lloyds Register of Shipping and Lloyds List unless otherwise specified.  Unfortunately the early versions of the Register are not  particularly accurate and only imperfectly searchable online, so there may still be references to the Stavers captains hidden there.


Research into the Stavers captains is also hindered by the fact that the family tended to use the same first names again and again. Also, while there are good records in the press of the time of the movements of merchant ships from British ports, only the surname of the captain is given, which is not much help when – as was often the case during the first two thirds of the 19th century – there were several Stavers captains at sea at any one time. I have appended lists of ships commanded by each captain, but they may not be complete.


I have quoted liberally from newspaper articles as they often give a flavour of the period that it is impossible for a later writer to capture. As this was mostly drafted during the 2020-2021 pandemic, I had to rely almost entirely on the internet for sources. Once libraries and archives are open again, I hope to be able to add more material.


I would be grateful for comments and corrections.


Sophia Lambert

London, January 2021         CONTACT




Introduction: William Stavers or Stavert (1722-1799)



PART 1: the Northumberland Stavers


1.1. Captain John Stavers (1749-1831) and his family


1.2. Captain John “Japan Jack” Stavers (1783-1826)


1.3. Peter Stavers (1784-1867) and Captain Wilkinson Stavers (c.1831-1864)


1.4. George Stavers (1788-1832) and his sons Captain John (1822-1902) and Captain George Stavers (1825-1891).




PART 2: The Rotherhithe Stavers


2.1. The southern whaling trade

2.2. Captain William Stavers (1765-1816)


2.3. William “Jack” Stavers (1789-1862), Knight of the Netherlands

2.4. John Reed Stavers (1791-1847) and his sons John  Lindsay Stavers (1818-1935) and William Stavers (1828-1876)

2.5. Francis Stavers (c.1793-1839)

2.6. Peter Mellish Stavers  (1795-1870)

2.6. Thomas Reed Stavers (1798-1867)



Family trees

Index of captains