The Alabaster Chronicle
The Journal of the Alabaster Society
by Laraine Hake - October 1999
Here is Chronicle Number 13! As time progresses it becomes more difficult to write something original in the Editorial, but I suppose that I can at least say, with mathematical precision, that this edition looks forward to the last year of a millennium (I’m not likely to be able to write that again!) as well as a new year for the Alabaster Society hence the enclosed request for your subscription for 1999/2000.
1999 has certainly been a year to remember for me! The Alabaster Gathering was really great. A fair bit of space is given in this journal to the Gathering, so my postbag pages are held over for the next edition. I hope nobody minds, just make sure that I have plenty of post to report for Number 14 please! Following the Gathering, as I waved the last Alabaster goodbye from Saxmundham in fact, I discovered that I had left the lights on in my car - I was alone, having been surrounded by friends and relatives minutes earlier...........! Three weeks later we had Ofsted at school, which was stressful; two weeks after that, 29th May, Mandy, my daughter, was married which was wonderful; two weeks after that, Mandy fell down two steps and broke her leg and her ankle........! Not quite so wonderful, the summer was stressful! On 1st September, I started teaching at a new school to me, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich. I had intended to have this Chronicle ready by then, and I am still not sure why it didn’t happen, but here it is at last! Over all, life is good. We are very happy in our new home having been here a year now; the job is coming together and will prove to be a good move eventually, I am sure; Mandy has learnt to walk again, although there is still a fair way to go; she is about to move to live in a lovely house in Kendal, Cumbria and is very excited. I am very happy for her.
On reflection, as an Editorial, this is a failure, being more of a personal note from me to you - but I suppose that it how I feel about all of the Alabaster members - friends and relations (rather like Rabbit in Winnie-the-Pooh)!
Back to my post as Editor - please read the enclosed letter from Ian Alabaster. I think a charity is a wonderful idea, although I must stress that it comes from Ian personally and not from the Alabaster Society, so do contact him direct.
I hope you will see fit to renew your subscription to the Alabaster Society; this is the first of the two Chronicles that will be covered by the 1999/2000 subscription.
One suggestion that was made during the Gathering was that a list of names and addresses of members should be circulated to other members with the next Chronicle. If anybody has an objection to being included in such a list, please let me know.
I wish you all a wonderful year 2000!
Alabaster Gathering 17th & 18th April 1999
Five months on, the fifth Alabaster Gathering is now becoming a distant but, hopefully, happy memory for the eighty-eight members who joined together for part or all of the weekend. A jack-knifed lorry on the A12 resulted in a horribly long journey for many, but I was assured that the good company on arrival did provide some compensation! The venue for the Saturday, the Old School House Hadleigh, was all we could have wanted; welcoming and spacious with a tangible link to our Alabaster ancestors! Each fresh arrival was greeted with a cup of coffee and a pack of notes for the day, and then was taken to autograph the Alabaster Family Tree on the wall next to his or her own name. People circulated, looked at the display and generally renewed old acquaintances or made new ones. Flexibility was the keyword for the timetable as those unfortunate enough to have been held up on the A12 gradually arrived!
General Meeting of the Alabaster Society
The General Meeting was ably chaired by Beryl Neumann, our Australian representative and one of the founder members of the Society, who had travelled from New South Wales to be with us. She welcomed those present in style.
The honorary officers of the Society, viz.: myself, Laraine Hake, (Secretary) and Robin Alabaster (Treasurer) were then re-elected, unopposed.
Robin, as Treasurer, reported on the state of the Society’s finances which appear to remain healthy (a Balance Sheet and Accounts to the end of August 1998 appear later in this issue). As Secretary, I reported that the membership of the Society was also healthy: five new families joined since the beginning of 1999, taking us to number 110, with most members continuing to resubscribe each year.
Sadly I reminded those present that both Adrian and Jeffrey Alabaster had died during 1998. Jeffrey will be remembered by many, having attended all previous Gatherings, without fail making some sort of contribution to the discussion during the General Meetings. Adrian will be remembered as another founder member of the Society, and in particular for his book, A Quintet of Alabasters which is now being reprinted. Adrian has very kindly left £200 in his Will for the use of the Alabaster Society. Much discussion ensued as to the most fitting way in which this money should be spent. Suggestions ranged from a printer or microfiche reader for immediate use in research and producing the Chronicle, to more long-lasting memorials to Adrian, such as a leather-bound book with details of each living Alabaster, a commemorative seat in the Guildhall gardens or even forming a charity. Adrian had specified that the final decision should be at my discretion, as Secretary, and it was decided that each of the various choices should be given further thought and exploration rather than a decision being made in a rush.
Lastly, a proposal was made that an honorarium should be paid to the Secretary, me! It was decided that this should be put to a postal vote of all the members. With this the meeting was closed.
Lunch was now served, enjoyed by one and all!
After we had replenished our energy, the Gathering settled down to listen to an excellent talk by Mr Cyril Cook, local historian of Hadleigh and Trustee of the Alabaster Charity which was formed following a bequest made by John Alabaster in his Will of 1637 and which still aids the population of Hadleigh and its environs today. This was absolutely fascinating and grateful thanks were expressed to Mr Cook, not only for his time in speaking to us today, but for the time he gives to administering the Alabaster Charity too.
Alabasters in Saxmundham
As many of those present intended to visit Saxmundham on the Sunday, I outlined the links between the Alabaster family and the town of Saxmundham. In 1712 William Alabaster, grandson of John and Elizabeth from whom we are all descended, and brother of Robert Alabaster (Branch IV), married Hannah Dawes in St John the Baptist, Saxmundham. They had 11 children baptised in Saxmundham between 1713 and 1728, and to the left of the west doorway of the church is an 18th century memorial to William Alabaster and his family. We were going to attend the morning service in St John the Baptist Church, where a christening was due to take place during the service, and follow this with Sunday lunch at the Queen’s Head Public House. It is interesting to note that not all the Alabasters were pillars of the community when they lived in Saxmundham during the 18th century, the Quarter Sessions for 1722 actually record that Widow Allabaster of Saxmundham .......Alehouse keeper hath lately suffered frequent drunkenness and many disorders to be committed in her House commonly called or known by the sign of the Kings Head (?) in Saxmundham......This Court does therefore .......disable the sd (Widow) Allabaster from keeping any alehouse or selling any ale or beer for the space of three years.
Trips to Bildeston and the Guildhall
The Gathering now dispersed to take advantage of the trip or tour of their choice, or to explore Hadleigh further. Many of us went to Bildeston where Sue Andrews told us about the church and its Alabaster connection. On 8 August 1615, Susan Alabaster, eldest daughter of John Alabaster of Hadleigh (who later left the bequest which led to the formation of the Alabaster Charity) married Michael Beaumont, a prominent clothier of Bildeston. In particular we saw the Alabaster coat of arms halved with the Beaumont arms on the memorial to Susan and Michael Beaumont. We were very grateful to Sue for her interesting talk and the handouts she had prepared for us to take away.
Others joined the guided tour of Hadleigh Guildhall and garden with Jane Haylock. For those of you who were there, Jane added the following to a recent letter to me “If anyone asks, the duck that was nesting in the tub in the Guildhall Garden eventually hatched all her eggs. Twenty-four hours later she marched the 11 ducklings down to the river - escorted by Paul, the caretaker..
Dinner and After-Dinner Entertainment
When we returned to the Old School Hall at 7.00pm for our Dinner, the room had been delightfully transformed with separate tables and table decorations. We even had a menu with the Alabaster coat of arms on the front. The food was really good, and altogether the meal was voted excellent! Our after-dinner speaker was Roy Tricker whom many will remember from our visit to Claydon Church as part of the previous Gathering in 1996. This time Roy gave us an illustrated talk on various Suffolk and Norfolk Churches with Alabaster connections. As ever, Roy’s enthusiasm and love of churches was infectious, and his talk fascinating. He truly rounded off a wonderful day in exemplary fashion.
The next day more than forty of us attended the morning service in the church in Saxmundham. It was most enjoyable and included the baptism of some children in the same font as must have been used by those eleven Alabaster babies nearly 300 years earlier.
We had Sunday lunch together at the Queens Head, and then said our farewells, many people commenting that they expected to be together again, with other members of our Society, in 2002!
These are my memories of the weekend, but then I could be accused of being biased.......I did ask some of those attending to write their impressions of the event while they were still fresh in their minds.
Reactions to the Gathering
Firstly, Colin and Josephine (Shirley) Alabaster (IIB) had driven up from Devon and were able to compare this
Gathering with previous occasions:
Irene Alabaster Healey nee West (IV) had been at her first Gathering in 1996. This time she was more of a veteran!
Sue Hill (IIIB), a new member of the Society, having joined our ranks only within the previous month:
And........the other half of that story, from Joan Watts (IIIB):
Lastly, some thoughts from abroad, New Zealand, from Marg Francis (IIC). Marg and her sons were in England in
Autumn 1990 and stayed with us then, but this was her first actual Gathering.
Patricia & Jim Turner:
Just how did the editor of Suffolk Roots get invited to an Alabaster Gathering, by default? It all started via a phone call from Laraine seeking assistance about the town of Saxmundham and a tour for the Alabaster family members` reunion. The invitation grew from there as I couldn't really offer that much help as all the things I had in mind had been done on previous occasions. However, I did mention that I would like to attend a reunion just to observe what went on and write it up for "Roots" in the hope it would encourage others to join one name societies or perhaps start a one name study; equally I thought it important to record the goings-on of an old Suffolk family in "Suffolk Roots". It was a superb weekend from beginning to end. The Friday had seen me in Salisbury at my daughter's wedding and driving through the night to return to Suffolk in time to attend the get-together.
Walking into the Old School which is probably sited on the foundations of the original Alabaster Foundation was an experience to cherish. So much hard work had obviously gone into organising the event and then there were all the various family Group`s trees (I have pinched this idea for my own extended study), photographs, and data to view. An example to us all in how it should be done: the research was meticulous and fully documented (I am guilty of forgetting). I would like a copy of Laraine's letter to introduce herself to unknown Alabasters, a real "how to do it" textbook example. The atmosphere was warm, friendly, and a real get-together of an extended family; it was lovely to be your guests for the weekend. It was rather like observing my own family getting together from the ends of the earth; like you we are wide spread: the New World, the Antipodes and the Far East.
Perhaps I should organise a get together!! It was an exercise in imagination to have a guided tour of the Guildhall and to wander around the parish church and to envisage the previous generations of Alabasters working, marrying, baptising their children and living their lives in Hadleigh and eventually ending their days in Hadleigh. To walk through the streets and see the houses that past generations of your family would recognise today.
It was most interesting to note that the generous provisions of an Alabaster will are still helping young people today, something to be truly proud of. Equally, I noted that there were several very young people there probably under the age of 12, congratulations on getting them there; a remarkable achievement.
I must mention the food: congratulations to the cooks and to Laraine who was obviously the mastermind behind all the organisation. I missed the Saturday night with Roy Tricker as your guest speaker; how I envied you all that experience; Roy in full flight is an event not to be missed.
Sunday brought the Alabaster family to Saxmundham where there are other links with the past and possibly today, but that remains to be seen (The Hamblings of Snape). It was a joy and delight to see so many Alabasters in St. John's in Saxmundham and to watch the baptism of two small children and to recall the forged common links down the centuries that all families have with their parish church. I equally enjoyed the sybolism of Laraine reading the lesson in Saxmundham church, another forged link with the past, where previous generations of Alabaster ancestors had worshipped. Probably I have to admit to talking too much about my love of Suffolk churches and their treasures.
The luncheon in the Queen`s Head was a memorable occasion, to talk to so many interesting people about "their family" and to admit we weren't actually part of it, just observers. It was facinating to talk to Laraine's father and find he was full of sympathy about the problems of rural living in 'darkest Suffolk' with no buses, few trains and petrol taxes having risen.
I did have to smile to myself about the "Alabaster noses": I had noted the familial resemblances. I'm afraid you can't
dodge your genetic inheritance but it is fascinating to note that this inheritance has passed down through three
centuries. I do wonder why this particular inheritance and a mathematical bent is an inheritance? I also make jokes
about noses in my husbands family and their engineering inclinations!!
Patricia & Jim Turner
Colin Alabaster 9th May:
To sum it all up, it was a great weekend. It is true that much of the organisation lies with me but it is only the support of all of you that makes it work, and the very many follow-up letters that I continue to receive throughout the year! What really makes Alabaster Gatherings so special is the wonderful people -- family -- who attend!
Laraine Hake (IIA)
"A Quintet of Alabasters"
The book by Adrian Alabaster
Following the Gathering, it was noted that there was continuing demand for Adrian Alabaster’s book, A Quintet of
Alabasters. Accordingly, it has been decided to have another 100 copies printed. These should be available before
For anybody who have not yet read this book, reproduced below is a description of its contents written following its original publication:
The adventures of five men, all bearing the surname of Alabaster, range from the Tudor period, through the high watermark of British 19th century imperialism in the Far East to the bombing of Nazi Germany in World War II.
The first two adventurers were cousins who lived dangerously thought the later Elizabethan and Stuart period.......one a merchant trading with Spain and the other a poet and religious apostate.
The two Victorians were brothers who went out East at an early age. One was a student interpreter in the Consular
Service in China while still in his teens............he subsequently reached the rank of Consul General and earned a
Finally we have the story of a 20th century Alabaster......of an age for service in World War II. We are taken through his training as a RAF navigator, his first tour of 30 bombing operations, culminating in a DFC .............His second tour resulted in a bar to his DFC and a DSO.............followed by a distinguished and action packed career in civil aviation.
Anyone who enjoys reading a “slice of life” will find this book a most readable account of actual life during three important periods of British history.
Letters between cousins in the 19th century.
At the beginning of 1999, Nan Kenyon (IIC) wrote to me:
I have been working on the contents of an old trunk brought to Canada by my grandfather in 1882 and recently discovered in my brother`s storage room - it contains letters and papers from 1870's to 1900's, very time consuming , but very interesting...................
Having seen a sample of the letters, Nan’s comments seem something of an understatement to me! I have transcribed here five letters written in 1856 by Henry Alabaster, then aged 20, to his cousin Percy Criddle, who would have had his twelfth birthday in October of that year. I think the letters are fascinating, not only from a family point of view, to see the care and interest that Henry was displaying in his younger cousin, but also for the historical detail that they give us.
Henry went on to be an adviser to the King of Siam, and the ancestor of two of our members; Siddhi Savetsila and Ginny Bird, (see Chronicle 12, The Thai Connection) whilst Percy emigrated to Canada.
You are a very good fellow to write to me, write often, and do not forget to love me.
I am glad you have an aquarium, and hope it may get on. You shall have a long letter when I get to China.
Mind you work as well as play, when you get a prize I shall be so glad, that I think we will have a party in China to drink your health.
Your affectionate Cousin
Some Family Notes
from Mary Ann Rebecca Alabaster`s Great-Great-Grand-daughter
A studio photo of Percy and Elise in Germany in 1863:
Elise (nee Harrer)
Isabel in London, 1873
Minnie Vane in London, 1873
Percy Criddle and Elise Harrer had six children born to them in England between May 1867 and April 1875. Copies of the Birth Registrations show the first three, girls, Mabel, Minnie and Isabel were registered as “Vanes”, children of Percy Vane and Elise Vane (formerly Harrer). The three boys who followed were registered as Edwy, Harry and Cecil Criddle, children of Percy Criddle and Elise Criddle (formerly Harrer), the address on all of the last three registrations was 131 St. George Road, Southwark.
Now begins the double life of Percy Criddle. At age 29, he married Alice Nicol in London on 8 Sept 1874. They had four children in Addlestone, England, born between May 1875 and 1880, then four more born in Manitoba, Canada between 1884 to 1893. Percy brought his extended family of Elise and their five children (Mabel had died when a baby in England) and Alice and their four children to homestead on land at Currie`s Landing, near Brandon, Manitoba in 1882. Percy`s diaries tell of the hardships of arriving in late summer and living for months in bitterly cold weather in a tent and shanty while building their first house which they moved into at the end of December. Elise (nee Harrer) A book, “Criddle-de-diddle-ensis” by Alma Criddle, a grand-daughter of Percy and Alice, which was based on Percy`s diaries and family stories goes into the pioneer days in great detail.
By the time they immigrated to Canada, Elise and their children were all known by the surname “Vane” (I wonder how this name originated!) and were referred to as “family friends”. Letters from Elise`s brothers in Germany refer to her “hard life” - whether they were referring to the hard life of pioneering, or her life as “a family friend” after having borne the first six of Percy`s children is not clear. My Grandmother, Minnie, was old enough to remember and be influenced by her Grandmother, Mary Ann Rebecca Criddle (nee Alabaster). Mary Ann was a talented artist of renown in her days, who specialised in watercolors and in book illustrations. I have inherited a water colour which Mary Ann did of my grandmother when she was a small girl. In his diaries, Percy several times mentions that his mother “has been over to visit with Elise and the children”, so obviously Percy`s immediate family were all fully aware of his two families. All of Percy’s descendants, on the Criddle or the Vane side, knew very well that the family closet contained a substantial skeleton.
Elise Vane`s Grave in Canada in 1977
Mrs Fowlger, the nurse who took care of
Thanks to information provided by Nan Kenyon (nee Criddle), my father`s cousin on the Criddle side, as well as my access to Percy`s diaries, my direct link to Mary Ann Alabaster is well documented. Nan has kept in close touch with her Vane “cousins”.
Certainly, Mary Ann Alabaster has a large number of descendants through her son Percy`s two families on this side of the Atlantic.
Myrna Paquette (nee Myrna Vane Brandon) (Branch IIC)
Mary Ann Rebecca Alabaster, mother of Percy Criddle, was the daughter of Charles and Mary Alabaster, born 28 October 1805. She was the aunt who brought up the orphaned sons, Charles (1833-1865), Henry (1836-1884) and Chaloner (1838-1898) of her brother, James Chaloner Alabaster and his wife, Sophia Harriet after their early deaths within two months of each other, in 1840.
These four boys, Charles, Henry, Chaloner and Percy, spread around the globe; Charles went to New Zealand (Chronicle
3), Henry went to Siam (Chronicle 12) and Chaloner to China (Quintet of Alabasters) whilst Percy went to Canada.
Mary Ann Rebecca lived until 1880. Examples of her illustrations were featured in Chronicle 6. (LH)
by Laraine Hake
Having read Myrna’s account of the life of her gt grandfather, Percy Criddle, it occurred to me that he was still living in England at the time of the 1881 census. As I now have this as a searchable index on CD-ROM, I was able to identify the family of Percy and Alice with ease:
Simplemarsh Rd, Firfield, Chertsey, Surrey
I then attempted to find Percy’s “other” family, indeed, his first family. I searched under “Vane” and under “Harrer” with no success; then I thought of trying “Criddle”, and found the following:
131 St Georges Rd Southwark St George Martyr, Surrey
I have since learned that Elise and the children lived upstairs in the building and Percy's office was downstairs. One year later, these Alabaster grandchildren were all living together in Canada!