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Found: The unmarked grave of Captain Owen Stanley

Owen Stanley's unmarked grave (Bob Lawrence)BOB LAWRENCE

I have been researching the life and times of the marine artist Sir Oswald Brierly (1817-94), who came to Australia with the notorious Scottish-born adventurer, entrepreneur and politician Ben Boyd (1801-51).

In conducting my research in Sydney, I discovered the grave of the English mariner Captain Owen Stanley (1811-50), after whom the Papua New Guinean mountain range is named.

Owen Stanley’s final resting place is an unmarked and unkempt but still impressive grave on a tract of land in the Sydney suburb of Cammeray.

In December 1846 Stanley had sailed from Portsmouth in England in charge of HMS Rattlesnake with two eminent naturalists on board.

Meanwhile Ben Boyd’s an up-and-down business career was in a down period and he became bankrupt.

Brierly had to find another job and, in 1848, was employed by Captain Owen Stanley as his artist on a marine survey of the Torres Strait and the waters between the Queensland coast and the Great Barrier Reef.

Owen Stanley's plaque in St Thomas Church (Bob Lawrence)They went on to survey the Louisiade Archipelago (Brierly had an island there named after him), but Stanley fell ill, and died on board ship in Sydney Harbour aged only 38.

Newspaper cuttings of the time said he received a naval funeral at St Thomas Church in St Leonards and was buried in the same suburb.

There is no cemetery attached to St Thomas Church but, in the 1840s, the wealthy landowner, Alexander Berry, distressed that there was no cemetery to bury his recently deceased wife, had donated four acres about a mile away on West Street in what is now in the suburb of Cammeray.

Cemetery records record that Owen Stanley is also buried there, but there is no tombstone or plaque.

Owen Stanley Range (Sarah Wells)I did some poking around and discovered Stanley’s unmarked grace, pictured above, as well as this plaque which is still in St Thomas Church.

Brierly went on to a brilliant career. After many other adventures he achieved artistic fame as official artist to the first royal visit to Australia, became head of the Royal Naval Art Gallery at Greenwich and was later appointed Queen Victoria's official marine artist, receiving a knighthood.

But Captain Owen Stanley these days is remembered best for the majestic mountain range in Papua New Guinea that bears his name. 


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Robert Bourns

Edward Wolfe Brooker, also on the Rattlesnake and a lesser known artist, in 1850 painted a watercolour of the grave of Owen Stanley in Cammeray.

Three artists (Brooker, Stanley, Brierly) and Huxley. Interesting voyage for sure. A lot of talent.

You can see Brooker's painting in Owen Stanley's Wikipedia entry here - KJ

Perry Whitehouse

I also was unable to find Stanley's grave around 2009. (?) However the wonderful people at the church knew exactly where it was and following their advice found it easily. From what I recall he was reburied some years after his initial resting place near the church. It is a very historic section of the burial ground and well worth a visit to anyone interested in early Australian history

Bob Lawrence

I revisited the Owen Stanley grave at Cammeray in Sydney again - this time taking a broom. I swept the leaves and dust form the top and found an inscription. I acquired some white chalk and inserted it in the grooves to reveal the full wording. I shall send Keith Jackson a photo to upload.

Richard Pearse

Nearby the grave of Owen Stanley is that of Commodore Goodenough who died at sea in 1875 from an arrow wound received in Santa Cruz. So people who bestowed names on New Guinea are well represented in this burial ground. Richard Pearse

Richard Pearse

Thanks Bob Lawrence. I too have been searching for his grave in the St Thomas Graveyard in Cammeray,but unable to find it.Now know it is unmarked and there is a tablet inscription in the Church. I can now find the location. I'm also an ASOPian. Richard Pearse

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