THE STAVELEY/STEVELLY FAMILY OF CORKBy Kae Lewis
WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?The Civil War period of 1630 - 1660 was a time of horrendous upheaval, fear, uncertainty and oftentimes homelessness for all the people of England, not the least the Staveleys of Yorkshire, some of whom were on Cromwell's side, some on the King's. Their fortunes then depended on how quickly they could change sides when politics dictated it. Priests of the established churches were summarily dismissed and had to work in secret from then on. This is the reason for the disarray of the parish registers for the Civil War period, with most records missing.
Family legend (1) says that my ancestor William Staveley was born in the Boroughbridge/Thormanby/Easingwold area of Yorkshire about 1630 - 1635 and left there as a young lad 'about the time that King Charles lost his head' (1649). That same year, Cromwell decided to go to Ireland, taking much of his army with him (2). I cannot help thinking that my ancestor William Staveley went to Ireland attached in some way to this army. Wives and families used to trail in the wake of the army in those days. Family lore states that William ended up alone in Belfast as a young lad and was apprenticed to a tailor, Mr Cox (1). It is also said that William's journey to Ireland was somehow connected to the Lascelles family but we have been unable to prove it. However at that time, the Lascelles family did own land in Thormanby. There was a Colonel Francis Lascelles who was an MP for Yorkshire and commanded Cromwell's troops in Yorkshire. Some of this man's family did settle in County Down at a much later date but I can find no proof of a connection between the Staveley and Lascelles families at that or any other time.
Whatever the circumstances of his birth and removal to Ireland, William Staveley married Sarah Cox, the daughter of his boss and together they founded my large Irish Staveley family.
With family legend, especially legend as old as this that has been passed down through many generations, it is extremely difficult to sort out fact from fiction. We were fortunate that this particular legend was written down early on by my 5x great grandfather Robert Staveley/Stevelly. He was the grandson of William and would have known him as he was aged 32 when his grandfather William died in 1748.
Above are the facts of the story that I think I can rely on as being in essence true. The rest I am not so sure about. It is said that William Staveley's father (Robert) was a landowner in the Boroughbridge area of Yorkshire, something no-one has been able to prove. However it is indisputable that land in this area was owned by various Staveley families, both before, during and after the Civil War era.
Due to the dismal state of the parish records for the period, we cannot even prove William Staveley's birth occurred, even though we know roughly the date and place. According to the legend, following his father's untimely death, William's mother remarried to a Mr Lascelles. Any record of a marriage that occurred between a Staveley widow and a member of the Lascelles family has been lost I believe because there are large gaps in all the Parish Registers for that period. It is said that it was in order to cheat young William Staveley of his inheritance, his stepfather Lascelles sent him to Ireland. Despite many years of probing, I and many others have not been able to uncover any truth in this legend. It may well have been a story dreamt up by one of the more fanciful of my Irish ancestors to entertain the family around the fireside.
The family apparently did have papers to prove their Yorkshire inheritance which were sent to William in Ireland by his Uncle Miles Staveley of Yorkshire, brother of his father Robert. Much later, William's grandson Joseph did try to journey to England with these papers to reclaim the property, which legend states was then in the hands of the Lascelles family. However it is said that on the journey to the docks to catch the Packet to England, Joseph fell from his horse and died. His wife was so angry about this that she took the papers and threw them into the fire lest they bring more bad luck on the family (1). Imagine my surprise when I found the following announcement in a Dublin newspaper called Pue's Occurrences Sat July 20 1745:
It is notable that Joseph was a hosier, his brother Robert was a haberdasher and linen merchant while William their grandfather was apprenticed to a tailor on his arrival in Belfast. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the area of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire was known for its wool and linen weaving and trading in the 17th century and earlier. In those days, families tended to stay fixed within one trade from generation to generation, and this perhaps helps to confirm the legend that Boroughbridge was the area that William had come from.
My own branch of the Staveley family stayed in County Antrim until Robert Staveley/Stevelly (the grandson of William) decided to move his business to Cork City in 1745. It is said that he was so much against his children or descendants going to Yorkshire to try to reclaim the property his grandfather had lost, as his brother Joseph had done, that he changed the family name to Stevelly to prevent them. However, according to the newspaper account above, his brother Joseph had already changed the spelling of his name to Stevely as well.
THE STAVELEY ARMSIt was several generations later in 1840 that one of Robert's grandsons, Robert Jones Stevelly, a solicitor in Dublin, decided to apply to The Ulster King of Arms and Principal Herald of All Ireland (Sir William Betham) for restoration of the Staveley family name and crest. The Chief Herald drew up a large Staveley family tree and issued the familiar Yorkshire Staveley family crest but using for some reason the motto belonging to the Bridlington Staveleys: Fidelis Ad Urnam. This is the same crest as that used by the Staveleys of North Stainley, Ripon, Yorkshire but they use the motto Nil Desperandum. This North Stainley Staveley family also originated in the nearby Thormanby area (5). At the same time, the Chief Herald recommended that our Irish branch revert to the more historically correct spelling of Staveley. This they did en masse at that time.
The strange thing is that in this decree (6) issued by the Chief Herald in 1840 he states:
The crest used by George Stevelly, here signed by him.
George Stevelly died in 1837, so the family was using
the crest prior to 1840.
Click to enlarge the photograph.
'Robert Staveley of Yorkshire with wife (unknown) marrying secondly ...Lascelles.' Robert's only child: 'William Staveley came to Ireland tempora Car I born 1630, died 1748 at 118.'
The odd thing is that there is no mention on this tree of the Francis Staveley who features so prominently in the above decree. Nor does this Francis appear in any other extensive family records or stories to my knowledge. Until I saw the name of Francis Stavelly amongst Cromwell's list of men receiving grants, I had not seen any other reference to him and had thought he must have been invented by the Chief Herald to pad out his decree. It certainly seems possible that Francis might have had something to do with young William's removal to Ireland about 1649.
ROBERT STEVELLY OF CORK CITYThe eldest son of William Staveley who came to Ireland was Joseph Staveley who was born in 1675. He married Janet Edmiston and they had three sons and a daughter, all born in County Antrim. Robert Staveley/Stevelly I (1716 - 1795) was their middle son. Jones Stevelly wrote the following about his father's early days in County Antrim:
(1716 - 1795)
Click to enlarge the photograph.
Sarah Stevelly nee Jones
(1723 - 1789)
Click to enlarge the photograph.
Robert must have continued his itinerant lifestyle during at least the years 1745 to 1749, returning to county Antrim for supplies of bleached linen perhaps. However by 1753 he had converted to the Church of Ireland. The following are extracts from the Vestry Book of St Peter's Church, City of Cork:
I know Robert used to go to London to buy his silks, laces and satins and to trade them for locally produced linens because a notice appeared in the Belfast Newsletter on 25 - 28th June 1782 that listed the passengers who arrived in the Le Despencer Packet from Holyhead. This list included 'Mess. Stevely and son'. It is said that Robert, when in London, often dined with his friend Richard Staveley from the Bridlington branch of unrelated Staveleys (1). It is likely that this was the source of the mistaken idea that the family motto should be Fidelis Ad Urnam. Despite the fact that the family crest was only officially granted to the Staveley family in 1840, it was used extensively by the Cork Staveley family prior to this date and can be found etched on many old silver heirlooms of this era.
Jones Stevelly himself wrote about his father (1):
Note: In the 1790s when Robert Stevelly died, there was a Valuation carried out in a neighbouring parish, St Nicholas. The most expensive houses at that time were valued at between 14 and 20 pounds. This gives some idea of the size of Robert Stevelly's estate.
Over the years, Robert and his wife Sarah had at least 26 children, with only 15 surviving to adulthood (1). They attended St Peter's Church in North Main Street, with the Vestry Book recording that Robert was a Churchwarden there in 1755. The known children in Robert and Sarah Stevelly's large family:
(1) Grace Stevelly
baptized 27 Oct 1746
married (1) Nathaniel Gardner
married (2) 21 Dec 1772 William Smith of Carhimoyle, Co Limerick
(2) Jane Stevelly
baptized 11 Apr 1748 Cork
married Feb 1772 to Michael Sweeney of Woodbrook, Co Dublin
(3) Joseph Stevelly
baptized 8 April 1749 Cork
wounded 8 July 1777 Fort Ann, New York
died May 1782 POW, Virginia, USA (probably)
(4) Thomas Stevelly
baptized 30 March 1750 Cork
buried 2 May 1752 at St Peter's, Cork.
(5) Sarah Stevelly
baptized 19 March 1751 Cork
married 4 March 1771 St Peter's Church, Cork
to Christopher Sanders of Sanders Park, Charleville, Co. Cork
(brother of Henry Sanders who married Catherine Roche)
died June 1778 Charleville
(6) William Stevelly
baptized 19 July 1752
buried 29 July 1752 at St Peter's, Cork.
(7) Robert Stevelly II
baptized 19 Aug 1753 Cork
died 16 Nov 1817 Grt Charles St, Mountjoy Sq, Dublin
married (1) 6 May 1782 Drumcondra, near Dublin to Jane Kirkpatrick
married (2) 4 Feb 1795 St Marys, Shandon, Co Cork
to Margaret Collis nee Day ( widow of John Fitzgerald Collis, Dublin)
(8) Hester Stevelly
baptized 11 Aug 1754 Cork
married 12 Oct 1775 to John Smith of Newcastle, Co Limerick (brother of Wm Smith who married Grace)
(9) Annabella Stevelly
baptized 13 Aug 1756 Cork
married 18 Sept 1779 to Richard Hoops of Co. Tipperary
(10) Thomas Stevelly
baptized 20 Sept 1756 St Peters, Cork
died 19 Feb 1759 Cork
buried St Peters Church, Cork.
(11) Anne Stevelly
baptized 15 Oct 1757 Cork
died 15 Oct 1759 Cork
(12) Anne Stevelly
baptized 16 March 1760 (twin) Cork
died 16 March 1760 Cork
(13) Mary Stevelly
baptized 16 March 1760 (twin) Cork
died 9 Apr 1760 Cork
(14) George Stevelly
baptized 22 Sept 1761 Cork
died 15 April 1837 Cork
married 17 Feb 1787 to Anne Knapp
(4x great grandparents of the author)
(15) Jones Stevelly
baptized 15 May 1763 Cork
died 29 Sept 1833 Croyden Park, Clontarf, Co. Dublin, Ireland
buried St Mary's Church, Dublin
married 27 May 1790 Cork to Margaret Cuthbert
There was a large tomb erected in St Peters Churchyard which no longer exists (either the churchyard or the tomb). It reads:
GEORGE STEVELLY OF CORKAt his death, Robert left most of his large estate to his son George Stevelly while disinheriting his elder son Robert Stevelly II (1753 - 1817). This was a mistake because, in character, George was not his father's son. George preferred a life of leisure with his favorite pastimes being riding and hunting with the fraternity of Anglo-Irish gentry in County Cork. George married Ann Knapp in 1787, prior to his father's death, and they produced a large brood of children. It is said that Robert I preferred George to Robert II because Robert had yet to have a family in 1795 when Robert I was making his Will, whereas George already had 3 sons and 2 daughters.
In order to finance his lifestyle and ever-expanding family, George leased off or sold most his father's extensive property holdings and invested the money in various ventures. He did not carry on the haberdashery business which disappears from the Cork Directory by 1805 (8).
Cork Advertiser Tuesday Aug 30 1799:
In 1813, George and his two grown sons Robert George Stevelly and Reverend Edmund Stevelly formed a partnership and opened a private bank, a not uncommon occurrence in these heady days (9).
That lasted just under two years and spelt the end of the Staveley wealth, just 20 years after the death of George's father:
Boreenmanna Road, Southern Liberties of the City of Cork.
George Stevelly lived her from about 1813 until his death in 1837.
It was leased out long term and still owned by the Staveley family until recently.
Click to enlarge the photograph.
Cork Standard: 17 March 1837: 'Died Saturday 5th inst at his residence Clontimon Lodge, George Stevelly, Esq, aged 75 years.' (10)
Robert George Stevelly's wife Anne died in 1841 at the age of 53, and seven years later in 1848, their eldest son George and his wife both died of fever, leaving Robert George with six young orphaned grandchildren to raise alone. In the 1852 Griffith's Valuation, Robert George Stevelly is shown as leasing a house and yard at 31 Warren's Place, Cork City.
The eldest of these orphans was Robert George Staveley who went to sea at a young age and eventually jumped ship in Lyttleton, New Zealand, probably in about 1857. He worked in North Canterbury as a farm manager, and the small town of Staveley there is named after him. Later he moved to a farm in Port Underwood, married and had four children whose descendants now live all over New Zealand (11, 12). His story was told in an article submitted to The New Zealand Genealogist (13) by Jack Free, my second cousin. It was only after the appearance of this article that Jack and I first met and were able to rekindle family ties, Jack being the grandson and I the great granddaughter of Robert Jones Staveley of Otaki (see below).
Robert George Stevelly (the elder) died in 1869, aged 81 years, at 15 Georges Street, Cork, having successfully raised two large families of children. Another of the orphans, Annie came to New Zealand to join her brother, Robert George Staveley (the younger) in Canterbury:
Lyttleton Times: 13 April 1871, Hawkeswood, by Rev William Hogg. Mr Thomas Armstrong, Overseer, Hawkeswood, Amuri and formerly of Dalry, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland to Miss Annie Hodder Staveley, daughter of Mr G. Staveley, late of Bantry, County Cork and Grand niece of the late Dr John Staveley, Belfast, Professor in Natural Philosophy, Queens University, Ireland.
John Stevelly BA, LL.B and LL.D (14) mentioned here was another son George and Anne Stevelly and brother of Robert George Stevelly the elder. John was an esteemed Professor who it is said was the only person present in the front Hall of Queen's University, Belfast when Queen Victoria paid an unannounced visit to 'Her University' in 1849 and it was he who, unrehearsed and alone, came forward to welcomed her. The following describes his career there:
in 1842, Professor John Stevelly recalled some incidents of his childhood, sometime between 1805 - 1810 when he was aged 10 - 15. The Stevelly family moved from Fonthill House to Clontimon House, both in the southern Liberties of the City of Cork sometime during this period but most likely after the 1813 bankruptcy. It is most likely the following took place at Fonthill House.
The Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Vol VIII) 1842:
Mr. W. Thompson on the Birds of Ireland
...but anything more on this subject would be only taking a leaf out of the history of a pet magpie communicated by my friend Mr. Stevelly, Professor of Natural Philosophy in Belfast College. He remarks-
ROBERT GEORGE STEVELLYFollowing the bankruptcy, George's eldest son, Robert George Stevelly was 26 years old, and took up a life at sea. We know little about this period of his life, except that he was a Sea Captain in the merchant marine. On 21 May 1814, in the balmy days before his bankruptcy, he had married Anne Hodder, daughter of George and Sarah Hodder of Fountainstown, near Carrigaline, County Cork. Robert George and Anne had a large family of six children, one of whom was Robert Staveley (1819 - 1892) who like his father became a captain in the merchant marine. Eventually Robert George Stevelly left his life at sea and settled in Cork City as a merchant. He had a house in Great Georges Street.
JOSEPH STEVELLYA fourth son of George Stevelly was Joseph Stevelly (1797 - 1848) who was also a merchant in Cork but did not participate in the ill-fated banking venture of 1813 - 1815 since he was only 16 at the time. In 1826, Joseph married Catherine Fowler:
Southern Reporter: 4 Feb 1826: “Married this morning at St Nicholas Church, by Reverend Edmund Stavelly, Joseph, son of George Stevelly of Clontimon, Esq, to Catherine, youngest daughter of George Fowler, Esq, M.D. of this city.” (10)
The Reverend Edmund Stevelly (1790 - 1841) was Joseph's elder brother who had been one of the partners in the banking venture. He attended Trinity College, Dublin, graduating B.A. in 1811 (14) and in 1824, was the curate at St Nicholas Church in Cork City (16). In 1826, he was appointed Vicar at Drinagh, Co Cork and died there in 1841 (17). He had two sons, George and Newbold, both of whom immigrated to Australia. This George's eldest son Edmond George Staveley (1855 - 1916) was born in Australia, came to New Zealand in about 1878 and eventually settled in Christchurch where he was for many years a stock salesman for the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency (11). Staveley Street in Christchurch is named after Edmond whose descendants still live in Christchurch. Edmond's elder son was Newbold Crofton Staveley (1881 - 1950) who for many years was the City Engineer at Wanganui. He was responsible for some prominent construction projects there, such as the Bastia Hill Water Tower, the Durie Hill elevator, the Art Gallery and the Dublin Street Bridge (18).
Back in Cork, on 3 May 1837, in the same year that George Stevelly had died at Clontimon, Joseph and Catherine Stevelly had a daughter, Catherine Ann Stevelly. She must have grown up knowing her elder cousin, Captain Robert Staveley, son of her uncle Robert George Stevelly as they all lived within the confines of Cork City. Robert was Captain of the Bristol steam packet 'SS Sabrina' when he married his much younger cousin Catherine at St Ann's Church Shandon, Cork City on 26th August 1856. It must have been a great day for the two brothers, Robert George Stevelly, gentleman, father of the groom and Joseph Stevelly, merchant, father of the bride.
Captain Robert Staveley (1819 - 1892)
and his wife Catherine Ann (nee Staveley) (1837 - 1902).
They were first cousins, the children
of the two brothers, Robert George and Joseph Stevelly.
Click to enlarge the photograph.
Later Captain Robert Staveley moved his family back to Cork. In 1867, they were living at 4 Tivoli Tce (20), near the offices of Robert's employers, The City of Cork Steam Packet Company (21) and just across the river from Bachelor's Quay where Robert's great grandfather had opened his haberdashery business in 1745. Then, probably in about the year 1869, Captain Robert and Catherine moved to a house called Riversdale in Castle Road, further down the harbour at Blackrock (22, 23). This was just a few blocks from Clontimon Lodge where Robert's grandfather George Stevelly had died in 1837. Robert in fact now owned and received rents for Clontimon and an adjoining property called Rochelle which his father had leased out on very long-term leases of 400 years and more.
SS Sabrina. Cork 1844.
Click to enlarge the photograph.
SS Xema. 1873
Click to enlarge the photograph.
WHERE DID THEY GO TO?My great grandfather, Robert Jones Staveley (1857 - 1931) grew up as he always said 'in the shadow of Blackrock Castle' at the family home of Riversdale. The house was immediately across the Blackrock Road from the castle, overlooking the Cork Harbour. He studied as an Articled Clerk at Dr William Mortimer's Legal School at 26 York Street, Dublin (28) and passed the legal examinations on December 10th, 1881 (29). He immigrated to New Zealand in 1884 at the age of 27, joining the immigrant ship 'SS Chimborazo' at Gravesend, London. During the long voyage to New Zealand, he met and became engaged to his future wife, Helen Schabner Hammond, an Englishwoman.
They were married at Port Underwood on 16 September 1884 from the home of Robert's cousin, Robert George Staveley the younger. I suspect it was at his cousin's urgings that Robert Jones Staveley had decided to come to New Zealand. At first he tried a farming venture at Port Underwood with his cousin but then discovered within a short time that he was not cut out to be a farmer. He and Helen moved to Wellington the following year and lived in a house high on a scrub-covered hill in Micheltown at a place called Pollhill Gully. Robert resumed his career as an Articled Clerk, and then as a fully fledged solicitor first in Wellington and then in Otaki. He specialized in representing Maori clients at the Maori Land Courts (24). He died in Otaki in 1931 and was buried in the churchyard of the Rangiatea Maori Church at Otaki, quite near to the grave of Te Rauparaha (25).
Robert Jones Staveley (1857 - 1931)
Otaki, New Zealand.
Click to enlarge the photograph.
Robert's interest in yachting in Wellington Harbour reflects his origins in Cork harbour and his links with the sea through his father and grandfather. Robert was also greatly interested in the Staveley family legend and ensured that his descendants received written versions of the story of his ancestors William Staveley of Yorkshire and the Staveleys of Cork (1).
Robert Jones Staveley of Otaki had two sons, both of whom died without issue. His eldest son, Robert George Staveley enlisted in the NZ Expeditionary Force on 26th April 1917 and was killed as a prisoner of war in France in April 1918. He has no known grave but is commemorated on War Memorials in Otaki, Levin, Waiouru and the Messines Missing Memorial in France. The younger son, Bert died unmarried in 1973 and is buried with his father at Rangiatea (25). Robert Jones Staveley also had four daughters whose descendants live today throughout New Zealand.
But that was the end of the long line of Robert, George and Robert George Staveleys whose lives spanned a period of nearly 400 years from their shadowy beginnings in Yorkshire in the early 1600s to a foothold in County Antrim for 100 years and in County Cork from 1745 to the 1890s, until Robert Jones Staveley's death in New Zealand in 1931. The younger generation of Staveleys in Cork in the 1850s to the 1880s faced the politics of sectarianism and segregation which foreshadowed the Irish Civil War and development of the Irish Free State in the 1920s. In their lifetime they had seen their native Ireland torn asunder with hatred for the English occupation, coupled with famine, disease, poverty and death and decided that there was more future for ambitious young men and woman in the New World down-under.
This article was first published in The New Zealand Genealogist's FAMILY HISTORIAN Volume 2, 2005.
Without all the many genealogists in my family who wrote everything down and passed it down through the family, I would have known nothing about my family and the legend of their origins in Yorkshire. They include:
a) Robert Stevelly I, merchant of Cork (1716 - 1795) my 5x great grandfather
b) Robert Stevelly III, (1795 - 1854)
c) Robert George Stevelly (1789 - 1869) my 3x great grandfather
d) Robert Jones Stevelly/Staveley (1791 - 1815)
e) Robert Staveley V (1857 - 1940)
f) Robert Jones Staveley (1857 - 1931) my great grandfather.
g) Eileen Manley nee Staveley (1904 - 1997) my grandmother.
1. History of Our Branch of the Staveley Family by Robert Staveley V. Privately published circa 1920.
2. The Wordsworth Dictionary of British History by J.P Kenyon. Wordsworth Editions 1994.
3. Pue's Occurrences 1744 - 1749, Irish Genealogist Vol 9 No 3 1996.
4. The Irish and Anglo-Irish Gentry When Cromwell Came to Ireland by John O'Hart published by James Duffy and Co Ltd, Dublin.
5. Burke's Landed Gentry 1906
6. Betham Grants, Genealogical Office, Dublin, Manuscript 107, p 188. LDS Film #0100202.
7. Using the Irish Registry of Deeds at Your LDS library by Kae Lewis. The NZ Genealogist, Sept/Oct 2001.
8. Holden's Directory of Cork 1805 - 1807 LDS Film # 0100179.
9. The Old Private Banks of and Bankers of Munster by Eoin O'Kelly Cork University Press 1959.
10. Newspaper Index compiled by Rosemary Ffolliott. LDS Film #0537921.
11. G.R. MacDonald Dictionary of Canterbury Biography, Canterbury Museum, Christchurch.
12. The Marlborough Express 3/10/1957 'An Old Hand Tells His story' by Charles George Staveley.
13. An Early History of Port Underwood by Jack Staveley Free. NZ Genealogist Sept/ Oct 1994 p305.
14. Register of the Alumni of Trinity College, Dublin 5th edition 1950.
15. History of the Institute by J. Jamieson, Queens University Library, Belfast.
16. Pigot's 1824 Directory of Cork.
17. Clerical and Parochial Records of Cork, Cloyne and Ross by W. Maziere Brady. Dublin 1863.
18. Wanganui Chronicle 28 Jan 1950 p4.
19. Methodism in Ireland by C.F. Crookshank (1885) vol 1, pp 51, 62, 65, 93, 208.
20. Henry & Coghlan's General Directory of Cork for 1867.
21. History of the Port of Cork Steam Navigation by William Barry in The Journal of the Cork Historical and Archeological Society, a series of articles in various issues, beginning Vol XXIII no 115, July 1917.
22. Griffith's Valuation and Cancel Books for St Finbar Parish, Blackrock in Cork. LDS Film #0827177 and others in this series.
23. Parish Register of St Michael's Church, Blackrock.
24. Maori Land Court (Otaki) Minute Books (1894 - 1909), Levin Public Library.
25. Otaki Historical Society Historical Journal Vol 2, 1979, p 25.
26. William Deane Notebook held by the Irish Architectural Archive, Dublin.
27. The Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Vol VIII) 1842.
28. Thom's Directory of Dublin 1874.
29. Roll Book, Law Society of Ireland, Dublin.
Contact: Kae Lewis