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One of the most fascinating cemetery links with its rich maritime heritage is recounted in the remarkable journal of Thomas Reed Stavers (1798-1867) which is available to view online 

South Sea Whaling painting (New Zealand history)

With the fine spectacle of whaling ships sailing from the port of London from the 16th century onwards, Thomas followed his father, William (d.1816) and three of his four brothers, to become a master of a whaling vessel. He first went to sea in 1811, serving as a boy. But it was as a boatsteerer in 1816 aboard his father's whaleship Perseverance, hunting in the South Atlantic ocean off the Brazil Banks, that tragedy struck. His father and a seaman called Campbell were struck by a whale's tail and their boat smashed to pieces, killing both men. This poignant episode is recalled in Thomas journal thus:

'The loss of my dear Father was a great shock to me, for I now knew that all would go wrong. I had no one to comfort me in all this trouble and the Mate was drunk while the Corpse was lying in the Cabin that night. The Voyage was altered and sail was made towards Cape Horn.The next day the Body of my dear Father was committed to the Deep and it was with much trouble I could get common respect shown at the Funeral. In the afternoon all hands were called aft when the new Captain told them that he had taken charge of the ship and was now going round Cape Horn Sperm Whaling. The other officers were promoted and I was made third Mate, being the only one that knew anything about navigation.'......

Thomas Stavers went on to command many different whalers in subsequent years and many of these journeys are referenced in his writings. One of these voyages was documented by the ship surgeon, Frederick Debell Bennett, whose whaling around the globe of 1833 -1836 was a favourite of novelist Herman Melville, author of the famous 1851 novel Moby-Dick or 'The Whale' (which was based on the sinking by a Sperm Whale of an American whaling ship sailing from Nantucket called the Essex in 1820) . He lived with his wife, Frances (Fanny) in Java in the Dutch East Indies for some years, occupying many roles such as engineer, shipping agent and sugar mill operator, before returning to live at 373 New Cross road, Deptford with his wife as his eyesight began deteriorating in his final years. He was interred in Deptford (Brockley) cemetery on the 13th February 1867. Frances died in the Netherlands in 1878.

Thomas Reed Stavers - painting undated ( Geni )

Sadly Thomas Reed Stavers name does not appear on the solid plinthed headstone which is located close to the Brockley cemetery entrance. The Jobling Family name is inscribed on the headstone.

The faded headstone of one of his brothers , Master Mariner Peter Mellish Stavers (d.1870) lies nearby (the image of a whaling ship is just discernible on the headstone in the right light!) One of his many maritime adventures included surviving a mutiny aboard the convict ship 'Argyle ' en route to Van Dieman's Land ( Tasmania) in 1831.

Historical Footnotes :

Another significant naval journal was penned by Charles Wittit Poynter (1797-1878) who was a Master Mate of Captain Edward Bransfield on the Brig (a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts) Williams in 1820 when he sighted the unmapped South Shetland Islands (North West tip of Antarctica). His journal of the voyage and enthrallingly written first hand Midshipman's account of the first european discovery of Antartica and an invaluable addition to the literature on polar exploration was only discovered in 1998 in New Zealand. He recalled this historic moment of discovery thus: “We were unexpectedly astonished by the discovery of land'. Poynter Hill on the Antarctic peninsula ( ( height 2,707 ft) was named after him in 1950. 

Charles Wittit Poynter was buried in Ladywell cemetery on the 21st December, 1878. To date the exact whereabouts of his grave remains undiscovered. It appears to lie in an area of public graves near to the Ladywell Wall of Remembrance. It would be a fitting tribute to have his headstone restored after more than 200 years since the historic voyage, during which the Antarctic mainland was sighted for the first time.

The Discovery of the South Shetland Islands; The Voyages of the Brig Williams 1819-20, as recorded in contemporary documents, and the Journal of Midshipman C. W. Poynter Hakluyt Society Third Series No. 4 by R. J.

Below is the grave of Joseph Wallis d.1865 and his wife Rachel Wallis d.1864 which lies close to the Stavers burial sites in Brockley cemetery. His father was also a Joseph Wallis ( d.1833) - Carpenter on HMS Resolution during Captain James Cook's second voyage to the Pacific which was fitted out in Deptford in 1771.

The much faded headstone of Joseph Wallis in Brockley cemetery (source : find a grave)