By Kae Lewis


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:
'Last week Mr Stevely, an eminent Hosier in Corn Market; had the misfortune to fall from his horse and died last Saturday of the hurt he received.' (3)
This was the same Joseph Staveley/Stevely, grandson of William Staveley from Yorkshire and elder brother of my 5x great grandfather Robert. This terrible accident happened just three years before the death of their grandfather William Staveley in 1748.

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.


It 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:
'...William Staveley who came to Ireland in the Reign of Charles I and was the son of Robert Staveley of Yorkshire Esq that some of the descendants of the said William Staveley in Ireland corrupted the spelling and pronunciation of their name into Stevelly, but that being all of the same stock and descent, they are now desirous to resume the true spelling and to prevent confusion to spell their name uniformly Staveley, and having produced to me evidence in letters and other ancient documents from among the family muniments of the old manner of spelling the name and having also found that Francis Staveley Esq was living in Ireland in the year 1666 with other evidences, leaving no doubt in my mind that the above allegations and statements are correct, and the said Robert Jones Staveley otherwise Stevelly having further prayed me to grant unto him and the descendants of the late Robert Staveley of the City of Cork merchant and Sarah Staveley otherwise Jones his wife such arms as he and they may lawfully use and bear…….'

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.

There accompanies this decree a hand-painted drawing of the newly granted Staveley crest and a very large family tree with all the descendants up until 1840. This tree is topped with the words:
'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.


The 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:
'Robert I was bound to a tailor, but not liking the business he became a pedlar and dealt in linens and silks, travelling about the country. By his honesty and attention to business he was soon able to increase his stock, so that for some time he was able to travel about with two horses well loaded.'
Another relative, Hugh Frew later wrote about Robert Stevelly's early days:
'Robert was born at Ballymena, Co Antrim, and he and his brother Anthony dealt for some time in the vicinity of Kells, Co Antrim, in soft goods carried about in packs, which kind of business improving in their hands, they began bringing their goods from Dublin which was a still further improvement in their line, both as regarded an increase in customers and profits. After a few years trafficking in this way in this neighbourhood, they calculated on saving much travel and expense by changing the scene of trade to the neighbourhood of Dublin and the adjacent counties. They reduced this speculation to practise, selling their goods at their various stations by advertisement. This plan succeeded so well that Robert set up a shop in Dublin in the same line of business; he bought his bleached linen from northern bleachers with whom he was acquainted and in this instance, likewise he is said to have done a good business, and afterwards he removed to Cork where he quickly became so wealthy that he employed seven clerks. A person named Daniel Jackson, sergeant in the Antrim Militia told me that having heard much of Robert's flourishing circumstances, he went to see his concern. Jackson said that Robert had besides other business, a timber yard on Cork Quay, and that he dealth so extensively in foreign timber, and did so much business in other lines that he was reputed to be the second merchant in Cork.'

Robert Stevelly
(1716 - 1795)
Click to enlarge the photograph.

Robert married a wealthy widow Sarah Jones in 1745, soon after he arrived in Cork, and they lived in Cross Gun Lane, North Main Street, Cork City. Sarah was the daughter of Thomas Jones, another wealthy merchant living in St Peter's parish. Thomas was one of the early Methodists in Cork and was a good friend of John Wesley. Sarah was a young widow whose husband Edmond Roche, a Cork Shopkeeper, had died leaving her with a daughter Catherine Roche. On their marriage, Robert adopted Catherine as his own daughter and she married Henry Sanders of Charleville in 1761 at St Peter's Church.

Sarah Stevelly nee Jones
(1723 - 1789)
Click to enlarge the photograph.

The following is taken from a manuscript book of the proceedings of the Cork Presbyterian Church:
'5th Feb 1749. Robert Stevelly, Shopkeeper who is now settled in this town, having communicated elsewhere, sat down with us 18 February 1749. Robert Staveley, above mentioned gave in a very ample certificate, dated at Connor, and signed by the Rev. Mr James Cochran, Feb 11th 1748/9.'
Robert set up a large haberdashery shop on Bachelor's Quay and later moved the business round the corner to 9 North Main street, adjacent to St Peter's Church.

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:
'25th April 1753: Mr Robert Stevelly is appointed of the sidesman.
1754: Mr Robert Stevelly is appointed Church Warden.
15 April 1788: Mr Robert Stevelly appointed Church Warden.
24 Mar 1788: the gallery sold to Mr Robert Stevelly for £15'
Note that £15 is the cost of a large house in Cork at this time. We know Robert brought his father, Joseph Stevelly with him from Co Antrim because the following notice appeared in the Cork Constitution of the 31 Dec 1767:
..died yesterday near the North Gate, Mr Stevelly, father of Robert Stevelly of this city.
North Gate is where the Stevellys lived, and had their business. The following advertisement appeared in the Corke Journal Jan 20th 1763:
'Just imported from London and sundry parts of England and to be sold by ROBERT STEVELLY who keeps his warehouse at the Sign of the Seven Stars in the Main Street, near North-Gate, Corke. Gold and silver silks of the newest fashions, rich flowered silks ditto; satins of all colors, damasks of black and coloured; Pudafoys, Tabies; Armazines; Ducapes; Tobine-Mantes; silks, enamell'd, clouded, striped and plain Lateflings of newest fashions; flower'd and plain velvers, Capuchin silks of all sorts, and trimmings for ditto, Sacnets, Persians and Vinions, gauzes and Robins, stomachers and Cox Combs ditto, a large assortment of real Bussel Heads and real point heads and full breadth and half breadth point lace, real Brussels Laces, corded Mechlan ditto, English Brussels Lace, Mignionett Lace, Blond Lace, black Lace, Cambricks and Muslims, Scotch Kentins, plain and flowered...'
The list goes on for nearly 3 times this length.

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.

'Robert had a chaise, driven by a postilion, in which he always rode to the 'Change', as was the custom among the Cork Merchants. His livery was pale blue, with white collar and cuffs, and a velvet hunting cap.' (1).

The following description of Robert Stevelly was written by his daughter-in-law, wife of his youngest son Jones Stevelly in 1839 (1):
'My father-in-law paid me the utmost attention. He was a most agreeable, pleasant gentleman. His manners were extremely good and he could acquit himself at the head of his table in the best manner, having much good conversation. He was a good height but not a tall man and was full and bulky.'

Jones Stevelly himself wrote about his father (1):
'A short time after coming to Cork he married and here by frugality and attention after a long time, he realized a very great fortune - his house was considered one of the best in Ireland, their capital was immense. He has been seen, after a little examination, to purchase at one time £20,000 worth of any patterns he liked. One day at some merchant's house before dinner, he saw a pattern of silk handkerchiefs that he liked and he at once ordered £10,000 worth of that pattern…. He constantly went over to England to purchase whatever goods were most fashionable there…. It is said that his house turned over about £70,000 per annum, and that he left behind him about £80,000.'

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
no issue
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
no issue

(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:
'Sacred to the Memory of Sarah Stevelly, wife of Robert Stevelly who departed this life the 11th Jan 1789 aged 66 years.
Here lieth the body of Robert Stevelly, who departed this life 12th of March 1795, aged 79.'


At 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:
GEORGE STEVELLY has just received a large Supply of NORTH COUNTRY LINENS and DIAPERS, of the very best fabricks, for Export and Home Trade, which he will dospose of on the lowest Wholesale Terms. - no. 9, North-Main-Street, Cork, August 8.
Cork Constitution Thursday 15 May, 1800:
'George Stevelly is now selling by auction in his house in the North-Main-Street, Cork, all his present STOCK in TRADE, consisting of Linens, Sheetings, Diapers, Tubinets, Figured and Plain Silks, Muslins, Black and White Laces, Woollen Draperies and Manchester Goods, with a great variety of other Articles. -- The Sale to continue each day, till the whole be sold. -- N.B. He requests such persons as are indebted to him, will order immediate payments of their accounts. '

In March 1804, George Stevelly commissioned the builder William Deane to build an extension on to his house at Fonthill, Southern Liberties of the City of Cork. This was to be a substantial addition with an estimated cost of £880 (26). With a family of 10 children by this time, George Stevelly would have needed an extension. A green-house was added in July 1804 at an addition cost of £300. At this time, George Stevelly provided the builder William Deane with a remedy which he wrote into his building estimates notebook:
A Cure For the severest Cold
Take four of the Freshest Eggs that can be got, put them into a mug, get as many Lemons by Squeezing them as well, Compleatly Cover the Eggs taking care to strain the juice through fine cloth or Canvas so as to prevent the pulp getting into the Mug, let them Stand for three Days untill the acid dissolves the Shells at which time beat them up together then add two or three Ounces of Sugar candy or honey, then you will find it to be of a most Pleasing Aromatic flavour, take of this three table spoons full every Day or more as Occasion may require. It will give immediate relief to Persons subject to the Severest Cold or Consumption.
Got this Receipt from Mr Stevelly
17 Dec 1805.

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).

Cork Advertiser: 8 May 1813: 'George Stevelly, Robert George Stevelly and Edmund Stevelly have opened an office in Patrick street, nearly opposite Goolds Buildings, where they propose transacting business under the firm of: George Stevelly & Sons in bills of exchange on London and Dublin, and receiving Lodgements of money in National or Cork bank paper, for which they will pass their notes payable 21 days after sight, bearing interest at the rate of 4 percent per annum, from the day of lodgement until the day of presentation for acceptance, for any sum not under twenty five pounds. Office hours: eleven till three.'

That lasted just under two years and spelt the end of the Staveley wealth, just 20 years after the death of George's father:
Cork Advertiser: 26 Jan 1815: 'A Commission of Bankruptcy is awarded and issued forth against George Stevelly, Robert George Stevelly and Edmund Stevelly of the city of Cork….' (10)

George Stevelly then sold up most of his remaining property and lived out his rather frugal retirement at Clontimon Lodge, a house in Boreenmanna Road, near Blackrock, Co Cork. In 1836, he wrote the following letter to his nephew Robert Staveley III (1795 - 1854) who married Sarah Crofton and was a clergyman in Dublin (1, 14):

10 April 1836
Mr Dear Robert,
I received your kind letter with your order on the Bank of Ireland for Fifty pounds, I need scarcely say I am extremely obligd to you for your prompt acquiescence in my request, & I must say your kind letter has added most considerably to the obligation. You have my note enclosed for the fifty pounds (dated the 14th the day you got the order) with interest at six per ct payable in twelve months. I am glad to find that you are all well & that you hold out a prospect of our seeing you, & I hope Sarah, if you come to Cork. You shall have whatever room in the house will suit you & I think Summer is the season that is most suitable to your health at Clontimon, as well as its being the season we shall have please God a plenty of small fruit as strawberries & c. Your account of my grandson John is very gratifying. He is a well conducted lad & will I am sure be a great comfort and gratification to his Father & Mother passing through life. We are all here tolerably well thank God, I am myself the most Delicate but 74 is accounting for it very well, I am near I hope going to our Redeemers Kingdom yet doubts & fears arise from Recollection of my paltry life, yet as we are all sinners & can rely only on the invitation our Lord & Saviour has given us & on him only my hope of everlasting Salvation is fixed. Thus I may lay aside my fears. - I am my Dr Robert with love to Sarah & your little ones as well as John
Very sincerely your afft Uncle
Geo Stevelly.

Clontimon House,
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.

The grandson John that George mentions was John Hodder Staveley, aged 19 in 1836, a son of Robert George and Anne Stevelly. John was studying law at Trinity College, Dublin (14). Reading between the lines of this letter, it appears that George, to keep the wolf from the door, was borrowing money from his nephew Robert (son of his elder brother Robert Stevelly II who was in fact a rather disgruntled disinherited elder son in 1795). George's prediction that he was near to his end came true less than a year later:

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:
'The study of Sciences was carried on under considerable difficulties. John Stevelly who succeeded Knight in 1823 as Professor of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, gave evidence before the Commissioners of Education in 1825 on the serious disadvantages he laboured under in trying to carry out his duties. He had no proper laboratory facilities, so that he had to make his preparations in an oven at home. His apparatus had to be carried into his lecture room which was used all day long for other classes besides his own, because the apparatus room provided had to be used for a variety of purposes, including housing the museum exhibits, and the bones and anatomical preparations, sometimes even the subjects of the Professor of Anatomy. Any experiment involving use of corrosive liquids had to be prepared at his own home, the danger of bursting being very great.' (15)

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-
When a boy I succeeded in rearing a magpie from a very young bird; he became much attached to me, and long before he could fly would follow me about with a curious kind of sideling hop, and even at this time of life began to show great archness, running after the peasant children, who, in the south of Ireland, go for the most part without shoes and stockings, and pecking at their bare heels; and then instantly looking up to see if punishment were mediated, of which, if he saw the least symptom, he would escape with wonderful celerity. He became so adroit at length at this amusement, that the children who came near the house were much afraid of him; when his beak became stronger, he also attacked dogs in the same manner, but always with much and very droll caution. He flew well and strongly before I attempted to confine him in the slightest degree, and roamed at large round my father's place; but when I wished him to come home in the evening, one or two loud calls of his name 'Jack' were sure to bring him from some neighbouring high tree on which he had perched, to my shoulder, which was a very favourite resting-place; when there, it was a favourite practice of his gently to run his beak between my lips or into my ear, with that peculiar motion which pigeons are observed to use when they caress each other; the tickling sensation which this process caused when my ear was in question made me always submit with difficulty, and I was frequently obliged to withdraw my head suddenly with a shudder; at this he always seemed highly delighted, and used to chatter with a guttural sound not unlike Irish words.

The county people in the south of Ireland have a manner of calling each other from a distance by bending their fore-finger, putting it into their mouth, and producing a very loud and shrill whistle. This whistle 'Jack' became very expert at imitating, and it was a favourite amusement of his to sit on a very hot day on the top of the house, and if he chanced to espy any person at a distance, as, for example, the market-boy riding into town, a whistle from Jack, repeated if necessary, was sure to bring him back, however great his hurry, under the impression that some important commission had been forgotten, or that his presence was required at the house or farm-yard; the length of the avenue, and a gentle slope in it about a quarter of a mile distance from the house, rendered this trick very easy to be practised, and he seemed to take great delight in it when successful, and many a hearty curse he received from the wearied subject of his practical joke as soon as he had discovered the individual who had so importunately called him back.

He was particularly fond of any shining article, such as spoons and trinkets; these he frequently stole, and we came upon his treasure-house in a laughable way. There was an old gentleman, a great friend of my father, who resided with us almost continually. He was of a peculiarly studious disposition, but from a deformity in his person used generally to read standing, with his arms and breast resting on the back of a chair, and the book placed on a table before him; after having read for a while, it was his habit to take off his spectacles, lay them beside him, blow his nose, take a pinch of snuff, and after a few moments, pondering what he had been reading, resume the spectacles and proceed. One very warm day I lay reading at one end of a room in which there was an open glass door leading to the greenhouse; in this room the old gentleman was most intently pursuing his studies at a little distance from me. My attention was soon arrested by seeing the magpie perched upon the chair near him, eyeing him most intently and with a very arch expression, and at length, in an instant, he had with a most active hop touched the table, secured the red leather spectacle-case, and was out of the glass door with the most noiseless wing and with a very graceful motion. I remained quiet, resolved to see the end of the joke; after a few seconds absence 'Jack' was again at his post, eyeing the old gentleman with a most inquisitive and yet business-like glance; it was nearly impossible to resist the ludicrous impression produced by the entire scene: at length off came the spectacles, and out came the pocket handkerchief and snuff-box; quick as thought Jack had invaded the table and was out of the open door with the prize, which I have no doubt had from the beginning been the object of his covetous admiration while they were on the nose of the old gentleman. This time the magpie did not return, either because he found it more difficult to reach his storehouse with the spectacles than with the case, or because, having gained the object of his ambition, he conceived his presence no longer necessary. At length the period of rumination having elapsed, the old gentleman set about replacing the spectacles; as soon as his surprise had abated at not finding them with his hands beside him on the table, he removed the chair and groped about on the carpet, then raised the book and examined every part of the table. Not being able to restrain myself any longer, I exploded in laughter; and of course I was instantly suspected of playing off a practical joke, and charged with taking the spectacles, but at length succeeded in convincing him I had never risen from the sofa on which I reclined; but after a good deal of laughing, and two or three other members of the family having been attracted to the room by the hubbub, I was compelled, under cross-examination, to own that I had witnessed 'Jack's' abstractions. The question then became serious how the articles were to be recovered; some person suggested to leave a teaspoon near him and watch him. This was accordingly done, but his motions were so rapid that he eluded us all, seeming at first to pop completely over the house; at length, by placing two or three persons in favourable positions, he was 'marked' in a leaden valley between a double part of the roof; and this having been closely searched, a deposit was discovered not only of the things which 'Jack' had that day carried off, but also of some articles had been for some time supposed to be lost, but respecting which a breath of suspicion as to him had never been entertained. This day's successful foray led to his losing his entire store, no doubt in the midst of his triumphal rejoicing.

His thieving propensities seemed to gather strength from this period; but I have little doubt many articles which were lost were set down to his account without sufficient evidence that he was the thief. A valuable brooch which belonged to a lady who was on a visit with my mother was at length lost, and every finger pointed to 'Jack' as the thief; this charge acquired probability from the fact that he had on the previous day overturned and destroyed a very valuable writing-desk in her room while examining too anxiously some of the silver ornaments of its bottles; an order was forthwith issued by my father that a cage must be made for him, and the absolute liberty he had heretofore enjoyed somewhat curtailed. I submitted the more cheerfully to this order as his flights from home were now becoming obviously longer, and on one or two occasions he had not returned all night; and although at these times he made his appearance next morning hungry and cold and with a very rueful aspect, yet I was beginning to fear that he would at length acquire the habits necessary for shifting for himself, and stay away altogether. Accordingly he was caged; at first he furiously attacked the wooden bars of the cage and broke some of them, but in places so scattered, that in no one place did he succeed in making a breach large enough for his exit. He pined very much at the confinement, and the beauty of his plumage was much deteriorated, so that I at length began to let him fly about: his delight on these occasions was excessive and often laughably expressed; but his distress when again seized on to be returned to his cage was at least equally strongly expressed. He used to screech long and loudly, and resist with beak and talon; hence he soon began when liberated to fly straight off and remain away for several hours. In one of these rambles, a woman returning from Cork was astonished to see him stand so tamely on the public road beside a small pond at which he occasionally drank; she came near him and held out a herring towards him, which he very thankfully began to eat, when she secured him, cut one of his wings, and on reaching her home put him among some poultry, who beat him most unmercifully. It was four or five days before I was able to discover his prison, the woman living three or four miles off; and when I did, and had paid a few shillings for his ransom, he came home in most piteous plight; his spirit was quite broken, his plumage much injured and dingy, and except for the well-known 'Jack' and one or two other words, chiefly Irish, which he pronounced, I should have doubted or disbelieved his identity. I however pulled the feathers of his wings (which were mere stumps on one side), and by care he was beginning to recover his vivacity; when, attempting to drink at a barrel, in which, when he could fly, he was in the habit of splashing, he fell in, and was drowned before his danger was discovered. I never felt so bereaved as upon the death of poor 'Jack.'


Following 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.


A 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.

Throughout his long career, Robert captained the Bristol Packet that steamed twice a week between Cork and Bristol taking passengers and freight. When they were first married, he and his wife Catherine lived in Bristol, England where their eldest son, Robert Jones Staveley was born on 21 May 1857. The middle name of Jones was in remembrance of the baby's great great grandmother Sarah Stevelly nee Jones and her father Thomas Jones (occupation: linen draper; died 1762). Thomas was a founding member of the Methodist Church in Cork City and a great friend of John Wesley (1, 19). The name of Jones was to appear in the family over and again through all the generations and is perhaps a measure of the sense of family and history that the Staveley family always held.

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.

When Captain Robert Staveley died at Riversdale in August 1892, the following obituary appeared in a Cork newspaper:


'With much regret we have to announce the death of Captain R. Stavelly, on Thursday night, at his residence, Blackrock. For some months he has been suffering from a paralytic attack of a most serious kind, the fatal end of which was, we believe long foreseen. Captain Stavelly was one of the best known figures in our shipping trade. He was for years the senior captain in the fleet of the Cork Steam Packet Company and was almost identified with the Bristol line, though in recent periods he also traded to Milford, in his favourite boat, the Xema. Amongst passengers he was eminently and deservedly popular. No trouble was too great for him to take to ensure their comfort and convenience, while his skill was testified by the immunity from accident which marked his career as a ship-master. A most amiable and kindly nature, and a character in every respect worthy, will explain the feeling of sorrow which is felt by the general public, as well as by his employers, at his demise. We understand his age was about 73.'

SS Xema. 1873
Click to enlarge the photograph.


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.

When Robert Jones Staveley died, the following obituary appeared in the Otaki Mail:
'The funeral of the late Mr R. J. Staveley took place yesterday, the cortege leaving the Anglican Church (where the Rev G. K. Moir conducted an impressive service) for the Native cemetery, a plot given by the Natives on account of Mr Staveley's long connection with the town and its inhabitants. . . . The late Mr Staveley practiced as a barrister and solicitor in Cork (Ireland) in 1880 and came to New Zealand in 1884 and joined the staff of Mr E. G. Jellicoe's chief clerk, and later went into partnership with Mr A.A. Stuart Monteath of Wellington. He was a keen yachtsman and part owner of the 'Weka', one of the largest yachts in Wellington at that time. In 1892, Mr Staveley arrived in Otaki to open an office on account of the partnership, dealing mostly in Native transactions and later took control of the office and opened a branch in Levin.'

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