The Alabaster Chronicle
The Journal of the Alabaster Society
NUMBER EIGHTEEN, SPRING 2002
by Laraine Hake - March 2002
Welcome to Alabaster Chronicle Number Eighteen! I hope you will find this one varied and interesting. I must take this opportunity of thanking the various contributors and letter writers who have made this possible.
The new Alabaster Book, the Alabaster Society's very own contribution to historical memorabilia of the future, is well under way. Special thanks go to Ron Alabaster West for his hard work with this venture and to all of you who have contributed to such a worthwhile project. I am sure you will agree that we are very lucky to have the opportunity to make our own record for the future in this unique way! All things being equal (just a minor hospital operation taking place in the second week of April), Ron will have the Alabaster Book available for its first viewing at the Gathering at the end of that month. As you will know, such interest has been shown in the end product that we have decided to make a photocopy of its contents available in book form for purchase by a select few……..namely our members who have contributed! You will all have received notification of this, and obviously had the opportunity to let us know if you do NOT want your contribution included in such a copy. To my knowledge, nobody has declined to be included, and there has been a lot of interest in buying copies. We had hoped to have order forms available with this Chronicle, but have taken the decision to postpone them until September because it has taken longer than anticipated to collect all contributions (so if yours is still on your desk, you do still have the chance of not being excluded)!
Copies of the most recent Society accounts are included with this Chronicle. Do study them and bring them with you to the Gathering if you wish.
The next Alabaster Gathering is the most pressing Alabaster item on my mind at the moment. There are further details on pages 42-44 and a letter of confirmation of your booking and a request for balances due enclosed if you have already booked to come. However, I certainly do not want to alienate any of you who cannot be there by talking about it too much…………that will be in the next edition I expect!
As ever, I hope all is well with you and your families. I look forward to seeing many of you soon, and hearing from those of you who I do not see in person. Please keep the letters and emails coming in!
Sidney Herbert Alabaster (IIA)
by Laraine Hake
My father's mother was born Adeline Bertha Alabaster on 30th January 1881, in Bethnal Green. My father, Leslie Victor Oram, was her youngest child, born thirty-eight years later in Walthamstow. Despite being the son of an Alabaster, my father has very few memories of meeting any of his Alabaster relations as a child; just a fleeting memory of his grandmother and her eldest daughter, Aunt Emily, and a slightly stronger memory of his mother's younger brother, Sidney Herbert Alabaster.
My Uncle Alf, my father's older brother, wrote an article describing a visit from his "Uncle Sid" in about 1923 (Alabaster Chronicle No. 8). He remembered that Uncle Sid was a "master builder ……..he built many houses in Bexleyheath, Kent".
Apparently this was not the only occasion on which Uncle Sid visited. My father says he remembers these visits as annual events throughout his young childhood, taking place just before Christmas each year, when Sid would arrive with his wife, "Aunt Daisy", bringing a parcel of Christmas goodies and a bottle of whisky in a beautiful Vauxhall car, an open tourer with a hood.
1891 - 1 Clyde Terrace, Leyton
During the early months of last year, 2001, Lesley Harvey-Eells (IIIA) told me that she had noticed some words in the plasterwork on the side of building in Welling, overlooking the ground of Welling United Football Club, whilst waiting for a bus. It was largely obscured by a billboard but appeared to be the name ALABASTER!
Lesley attempted to take a photograph of the wall, but was more successful later in the year. On 3rd June she sent me an email:
"Just got my Alabaster photos (of the Contractor's wall) back from the chemist after all this time. They are very good as there is no billboard in front of the sign. Will put in the post tomorrow."
Welling, Kent, May 2001
It was clear to see that the writing on the wall did read, "S.H. Alabaster Ltd". It clearly linked back to Sidney Herbert Alabaster.
On 10th June 2001, just seven days after hearing from Lesley that the photograph of the wall was in the post, I received the following email:
Now, Tricia Dyer, the granddaughter of Sidney Herbert, had joined the Alabaster Society in 1997. She told me that Sidney Herbert had had four children; her father, Herbert Sidney (1908-1956), Florence Grace (1910-1979), Reginald (1917-1989), and Irene Ruth (1919-1979). These four Alabasters must have been my father's first cousins, but they never met. Tricia had told me that after the death of her grandmother, Daisy, her grandfather, Sidney Herbert had remarried, which had, sadly, caused a split within the family. When she joined the society, Tricia specifically asked me whether I had come across a Hamish or Robin Alabaster, who she believed to have been children of her grandfather's second marriage. Was it possible that this Jim Alabaster could have been one of these children?
I replied to Jim Alabaster, with lots of pertinent questions. Yes, he believed that he was almost named Hamish rather than James, actually Campbell James, but he was always known as James or Jim. The details of his mother fitted. Here was Tricia's long-lost "half-uncle" (although four years younger than herself) of whom she had heard vaguely as a child. Tricia was suitably thrilled by the contact, and emails flew backwards and forwards between them!
An email to me from Jim on 11th July 2001 included the question:
I had to admit, I did not have any information to offer on Grace or her children.
On 16th July 2001, I checked in to the Alabaster website that I set up in 1997; it is no longer in use, as such, because I long ago moved my emails away from CompuServe with whom the website was based, but it does still exist in the ether that is the Internet, although I can no longer access it to change any detail; it still gets very occasional visitors who leave messages.
There was such a message.
Tuesday 03/07/2001 (3rd July)
I read this with utter disbelief. Within one month of receiving the note from Lesley about the Alabaster Wall, I had now heard from two previously unknown (to me) descendants of my father's Uncle Sid. Now here was Tony Moore, who must be my father's first cousin, once removed, and my second cousin! It was almost spooky…………
Naturally, I contacted Tony, and put Jim and Tricia in touch with him. They had not spoken to each other since they were children!
Tony wrote to me and included two photocopies of photographs relevant to the Alabaster family:
S.H. Alabaster Ltd., Building Contractors
News from Around the World
Murray Williamson, Australia 1st October 2001
Beryl Cathro, Australia (I) 15th October 2001
Erica Alabaster, Wales (IIB) 20th October 2001
John Lee, husband of Christine Lee, nee Alabaster (1946-2001) (IIA)
7th November 2001
Two very sad messages. I am sure the thoughts and prayers of all of our members are with you both at such a sad time. - Laraine.
Denis Alabaster, Essex (IIIB) 10th December 2001
Stephen Alabaster, Birmingham (IIA) 6th December 2001
Dear Mrs Dyer,
Stephen Alabaster (IIA) 11th December 2001
Linton Love, Canada (Roger) 2nd February 2002
That URL will take you to the basic Home Page. Note there is NO www in the URL. From the Home Page you can scroll
to the end where you will find a hot link to the SMITH FAMILY page. …You will be interested in the first 3 generations
because it deals with the Smiths in Hadleigh. You will also see some familiar pictures which you will recognize as
from Mr Jones book. If you run out of things to do and get curious about the LOVE FAMILY page I hope it won't be
until I have cleaned it up, "tweaked" is the buzzword.
Captain Daniel Alabaster of New Zealand
by John Stammers Alabaster (I)
A brief talk on Captain Daniel Alabaster (Branch IV) was given at the first Alabaster Gathering at Hadleigh in 1990, together with a few written notes that included mention of Lake Alabaster in New Zealand, named after him. The following year Robin Alabaster and his son, Nicholas visited the lake and published a graphic description of their adventures (1 & 2), and also a footnote provided a few further biographical details about Daniel. There has been some other gathering of information about this branch of the family, and so I now take the opportunity to expand the written record and provide a few more details and some references.
The branch is, incidentally, the first to have been established in New Zealand (in 1854), the second one of the 19th century being Branch IIC (in 1859), as represented by the Rev. Charles Alabaster and his wife Annie; they were also mentioned briefly at the Gathering, and references to accounts of their lives and those of some of their famous cricketing family are given in the Preface to Adrian Alabaster’s book on some notable Alabasters (3).
Daniel Alabaster was born in Norfolk on 29 July, 1836 (5 & 7f) and immigrated to New Zealand as a lad of 15, sailing from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, in 1852 (4g & 7a), an experience that must have played an influential part in his subsequent choice of the sea as a career. It seems more than likely that his father was the Daniel born on 8 February, 1812 in Kessingland, Suffolk (5), not far down the coast from Great Yarmouth, a cork-cutter (7a & 7b), and probably the same Daniel who married Sarah Ingram at Goreleston-with-Southtown, Norfolk on 2 August, 1830, although Mary Ann, neé Webb is named as Daniel junior’s mother on his death certificate (7a). It seems that young Daniel was not the first of the family to emigrate, nor the first to be involved with the sea, for his great-uncle John, who was also born in Kessingland (5), had gone to America more than 20 years earlier, settling in New York, and soon to be followed by his son, George John
Fig 1 (right): Maps of New Zealand showing main places mentioned in the text.
who, as a young man, sailed the North Sea and the Mediterranean. Added to that, his great-aunt, Rachael had followed her brother to the New World a few weeks after her second marriage in 1835 to William Mitchell and had settled in New York (6).
Incidentally, the New York branch of the family can be traced on for five generations in the male line through: George John; the Reverend John; James Walter (by a second marriage); and finally John Hammond and John Hammond (Junior) who settled at Laguna, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean (6), again a call to the sea.
At 21, Daniel was already Master of the ‘Napi’, a cutter some 38 ft. (11.6 m) in length that was, unfortunately, totally lost in August, 1860 whilst attempting a crossing of the notoriously dangerous bar at the mouth of the River Taieri at Dunedin in the South Island (Fig 1); the boat had been laden with goods for settlers but, mercifully, there was no loss of life (4h & 4i). His optimism no doubt undaunted, that same year he became part-owner of the ‘Hope’, a locally-built boat which, however, was also doomed to be wrecked, although some 14 years later, after it had been sold in 1862 (4h & 4i).
By about this time, he had married at West Port (7a), Isabella Fenwick who had sailed from Glasgow for Otago on the ‘Storm Cloud’ in May, 1861 and had arrived at Port Chalmers, just north of Dunedin, at the end of July (4c); their daughter, Marianne, was born on 13 January, 1863 and was later baptised at St. Pauls Anglican Church, Dunedin (4b). Daniel continued his sea-faring life, and later that year was aboard the ‘Aquila’, again a small cutter of some 48 ft. (14.6 m) in length, this time off the west coast, about to explore some of the lakes amid mountains in the Martin’s Bay area (4).
West coast exploration
He was landed with a small party at Big Bay, just north of Martin’s Bay (Fig. 1) where he made the first contact of the settlers with the local Maoris - two families, one including Tutoko, an old West Coast chief (Fig. 2), who had been living there for the past five years with his two daughters (8). Daniel ‘christened’ these girls, Sara and May, and all three names are now immortalised in the surrounding Mount Tutoka, Sara Hills and May Hills (Fig. 3), so named by Dr. Hector (later Sir James) who arrived in the area a few months after Captain Alabaster and his companions. Daniel did not continue on his travels until he had done what he saw was his Christian and moral duty and replaced the somewhat scanty flax mats which served as dresses for the two young girls (probably like kilts, with the ends hanging down loosely(10)) by some more seemly garments - made from a material which came readily to the hand of a sailor, namely, a light canvas, not a very comfortable material for a garment.
Fig. 2 (left): Maori Chief Tutako (sketched by J. Buchanan (9))
Wishing to explore further, he paddled in a rather leaky Maori canoe borrowed from the chief, going up the lower Hollyford River to Lake McKerrow (Fig. 3). On his return the Aquila was taken up to the lake and one of the ship’s boats then used to continue further, sometimes having to be man-handled over the shallows as they pressed their way up the valley until finally stopped by a big rapid some 16 km upstream(9). They then continued on foot, and on 14 June, 1863 a party climbed one of the mountains and saw over the beech forest and punga ferns the rivers flowing east to Lake Wakatipu (Fig. 1) and, with Captain Duncan (who was also a master mariner), they carefully plotted their position.
Remember that this was at the time of much prospecting for gold in the country and of an on-going search for access routes across the mountains to the west coast; and so, to placate the gold-hungry members of the party, a further expedition was mounted from Lake McKerrow, up the Pyke River (Fig. 3); this led to the discovery, not of gold, but of a small and particularly beautiful lake with snow-white beaches, surrounded by bush-clad hills - Lake Alabaster, as it is still known today, with the Skippers Range rising from the western shore-line and the Bryneira Range from the south-eastern side (8) (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3 (right): Map showing the location of Lake Alabaster
‘It is one of the most beautiful lakes in New Zealand, and in the twilight, with wreaths of horizontal mist floating along the steep shores, with the greenest of bush reflected in its still waters, with purple shadows stealing down to darken the surface until only the rosy-tinted image of some snowy peak above recalls the sun now hidden by the distant hills, then the lake is indeed beautiful beyond anything we can compare’ (8).
Legend has it the lakes on South Island were created by Rakaihaitu, who came with his son, Te Rakihouia in the Uruano canoe and used his digging stick for the purpose (10). Wakatipu was apparently the hardest to dig because of the high surrounding mountains, but the relatively tiny Lake Alabaster was, no doubt, a much easier proposition.
After their discovery, the party left the area and returned to the Foveaux Strait, situated between the southern tip of the South Island and Stewart Island (Fig. 1), a region where many of Captain Alabaster’s later adventures took place.
The captain is reported (4g) to have discovered the Stewart Island oyster beds and, before that, to have been captain of the ship that took the first surveyors to the projected town of Invercargill, now clearly marked on present-day maps (Fig. 1). Remember that in those days Government travel was mainly by sea; the railways came later. On another occasion, ‘… he was mate of a ship which had several members of the Provincial Government on board. As the captain did not know that part of the Southland coast, the responsibility was cast upon Mr. Alabaster, who was the only one on board, it is said, who knew the danger of the ship’s position. Mr. Alabaster steered the ship into [the small inlet of] Waikawa [Fig. 1] "all safe", and received from the Government a grant of land as a tribute for his efforts. Later, for some years, Mr. Alabaster engaged in the coastal trade, particularly on the West Coast of South Island... and it is claimed that he discovered gold on the West Coast two years before the historic "rush" occurred’(4g). Incidentally, the grant of land was for at least four building plots (or ‘sections’) in the Wellington district that were eventually inherited by his family (7e).
There had been plans in the 80’s for a bustling settlement, James-town (Fig. 1), at Lake McKerrow, and for a port at Martin’s Bay. Although a small number settled, they were eventually beaten by the floods, disease, landslides, the treacherous sand-bar at the mouth of the river and food shortages, so that little now remains as testimony to those early pioneers (11).
Daniel had two more children, both sons: Horace Alfred, born on 12 August, 1864 at Dunedin, and Daniel, born in 1866 at Brunneston, inland from Greymouth (12) (Fig. 1). Two years later, the family was still in that area, at Cobden at the mouth of the Grey River when another son, Robert was born (but died later), at which time Daniel was reputed to have run a small hotel (7g).
Life on shore
The Captain may have given up the sea as his main occupation in his 30’s, for by 1869 he was on the electoral role in Dunedin, having a shop and dwelling in the Arcade. As he got older, he moved northwards, being recorded as a sail-maker in Madras St., Sydenham, Christchurch in 1885-6 (4f) and then later again at Wanganui, north of Wellington on the North Island in 1889 (7c). However, he may have continued his maritime life to some extent. Certainly he brought his home to Wellington by boat, having secured a cottage on the foreshore of Oriental Bay and, incidentally, instead of landing his furniture through the wharves, he piled them all into the ship’s boat and brought them out virtually to the door of his new home! (13). Also, in 1892 he was described as a mariner when, after having lost his wife in December, 1891, he married again the following March, the 20-year-old Jane Elizabeth Fish, also from England (7b).
In about 1903, he made a return trip to Martin’s Bay where he met the McKenzie’s who were then living there and, fortunately for us, told them about his visit 40 years earlier (8). By 1907 he had moved to Wellington itself, again as a sail-maker, and for the rest of his life he remained there as such (7a,d) (Fig. 4), dying, still in harness (13) in 1920, aged 82 years (4g). Unfortunately we have no portrait of him, although we know that he sported a fine beard (13).
Fig. 4 (right): Copy of Trade Advertisement of Captain Daniel Alabaster (7d)
He has left a relatively large family in New Zealand, one that has been carefully traced by his great-great-grand-daughter, Jocelyn Davies (12). Captain Daniel’s daughter seems to have had no issue, but his two sons between them had: six grand-children; 20 great-grand-children; 54 great-great-grand-children; and (at the last count in 1989) 77 great-great-great-grand-children! Among them, not surprisingly, are seven other Daniels!
Daniel must join the ranks of the more interesting Alabasters: master-mariner, explorer, sail-maker (even, ladies` tailor!), a family man and a man of well-earned property.
It goes without saying that Laraine has been a constant supplier of key information, but acknowledgement is also gladly made to others, particularly relatives, who have been most generous in their help, as is obvious from the References given below.
by Laraine Hake
In the autumn of 1994, Marg Francis (IIC) wrote the following in Alabaster Chronicle No.3:
When Charles Alabaster emigrated to New Zealand in 1858 he was 25, his wife Ann O’Connor just 16. They had been married only weeks when they set sail on the "Strathallen" because Charles was suffering from tuberculosis and had been told a long sea voyage was his only hope of recovery…………………………The couple arrived in Christchurch on January 22 1859………………..
For a time Alabaster was employed as Chaplain to the Bishop. However he never fully recovered from the tuberculosis and………..was forced to retire. The Alabasters, who now had two sons…….needed an alternative source of income. A school was a logical step.
In January 1862, Lincoln Cottage Preparatory School, which catered for boys aged 5 to 10, both boarders and dayboys, was opened. Ann mostly ran the school, with help from Charles when his health allowed. The curriculum was considered advanced for its day. Examinations, which were held annually, were conducted by Anglican clergy. Lincoln Cottage soon established a sound reputation. The Headmaster of Christ’s College described it as the best means of training for Christ’s College. Many leading citizens sent their sons there.
Tragically, but not unexpectedly, Charles died in January 1865. In spite of his ill health he had been active in civic life…………..There is a plaque to his memory in (the cathedral).
Ann continued to run the school until 1881……………
An Alabaster prize and scholarship were set up at Canterbury University in their memories.
In October 2001, I received an email from Murray Williamson in A.C.T. Australia, explaining that his wife, Judith (nee Rodd) was descended from the Alabaster family who lived in Rayleigh in the 19th century.
New Zealand Connections – further comments
b. 1689 Claydon, Suffolk; d. 1768 Baylham, Suffolk
m. 10 Apr 1721
b. 1726 Claydon, Suffolk;
d. 1768 Baylham, Suffolk
m. 7 Feb 1753
‹ brothers ›
b.1732 Claydon, Suffolk;
d. 1796 Bramford, Suffolk
m. 26 Nov 1754
b. 1762 Claydon, Suffolk;
d. 1828 Rayleigh, Essex
m. 24 Mar 1792
‹ first cousins ›
b. 1775 Bramford, Suffolk;
d. 22 Feb 1820 London
m.6 Sep 1803
b. 1800, Rayleigh, Essex;
d, 17 Dec 1879 Chelmsford, Essex
m. 10 Aug 1824
‹ second cousins ›
James Chaloner ALABASTER
b. 24 Oct 1806 Shoreditch;
d. 22 May 1840 London
m. 10 Aug 1830
Sophia Harriet WOODMAN
Mary Fox RODD
b. 1840 Rayleigh, Essex;
d. 1919 New Zealand
Frederick Denhame GIBSON
b.1831; d. 1915
‹ third cousins ›
b. 1833 Westminster;
d 18 Jan 1865 New Zealand
m. 29 Sep 1858
Anne O`Conner WARNER
b. 1842 Oxford; d. 1914 New Zealand
As newcomers to the Alabaster Society, my wife Judith and I were interested to read Marg Francis’s account of Rev Charles Alabaster and his wife Ann, who established the Lincoln Cottage Preparatory School in Christchurch in 1861. We knew that several of Judith’s relatives, named Gibson, descended, like her, from Ann Alabaster, were also prominent in education in Christchurch.
I contacted Marg Francis, who was unaware of this further Alabaster connection with education in Christchurch. She suggested that I get in touch with Rangi Ruru a leading girls school in Christchurch. The school kindly gave me a copy of their history, and it filled in the gaps in my knowledge. It is clear that Alabaster descendants have made a remarkable contribution to education in Christchurch and beyond.
Ann Alabaster (Branch I) married James Rodd in 1824 in Rayleigh Essex. James was an auctioneer, and held the position of clerk of the parish for thirty years. They had twelve children. Two of their sons went to Australia and set up the Free Trade Stores in Braidwood, New South Wales, to service the gold miners and farmers in a boom era. James died on 1 July 1862 and was buried in Rayleigh. In 1863 the newly-widowed Ann set out on the Intercolonial Steamship Company’s Auckland with her youngest daughter, Mary Fox Rodd, to visit her boys in Australia. (Judith is a great-grand daughter of one of these boys).
On the way out, Mary fell in love with the ship’s captain, Frederick Denhame Gibson. His first wife had died in 1861, and he had a six year old son back in England. Frederick and Mary married at St Saviour’s Church, Goulburn, New South Wales on 29 October 1863. Ann Rodd, nee Alabaster, must have found her way back to England at some stage, because she died in Chelmsford in 1879.
The Gibsons settled at Lyttleton, New Zealand, and had ten children. According to the New Zealand Dictionary of Biography, Mary was a forthright woman who saw to it that her daughters had an education equal to that of her sons. Several received a University education. Mary is quoted as saying to her husband "You know, dear, we have so much to be thankful for, we have eight daughters and two nice boys".
When the family fortunes sagged, in 1887, Mary commenced to supplement the family income by taking private pupils. In 1889 Captain Gibson purchased a small private school in Christchurch, and Mary and daughters Helen and Alice started off with eighteen girls aged from 5 to 16. Helen, not yet 21, was the principal. Her brothers called it Nell’s Academy; officially it was Miss Gibson’s Private School for Girls; unofficially it was Gibsons or Gibbies; and in 1891 Captain Gibson called it Rangi Ruru (wide sky shelter) at the suggestion of a Maori friend.
Sisters Ruth, Lucy, Ethel and Winifred also taught at the school at various times. Brothers Fred (a doctor) and Tom (manager at the Farmers’ Co-op) were consulted on major decisions.
Helen died on 24 July 1938, after nearly 50 years as Principal. In St Mary’s Church, Merivale there is a stained glass window in her memory and two brass plates commemorating her and her mother, Mary Fox Gibson.
After Helen’s death, Ethel became Principal at Rangi Ruru, but Ruth and Winifred continued to assist her. The three sisters finally retired in 1946 when they sold the school to the Presbyterian Church. On its centenary in 1989 Rangi Ruru had an enrolment of 700, with over 150 boarders.
Mary Gibson, MA, another member of this redoubtable family, became Headmistress of Christchurch Girls’ High School in 1889, a position which she retained until she retired in 1928, when the school had over 600 pupils. She died on 1 September 1929. In 1893 she signed a petition which led to the enfranchisement of women in New Zealand.
Beatrice Gibson MA became Headmistress of the Nelson College for Girls in 1890. She tried to avoid marriage interfering with her career and resigned in 1900 in order to travel, but Dr Alfred Talbot, Superintendent of Nelson Hospital and a former student with Beatrice at Christchurch University, pursued her to England, and married her there.
A remarkable story I think. I wonder if the Gibsons were aware that the Alabasters in Christchurch were related to them? I am inclined to think so. Mary Fox Rodd was the same age as Ann Conner Alabaster. In 1874 Captain Gibson took Mary and their six children and nanny back to England for two years to visit relatives, so that Mary must have been aware of her Alabaster connections. (I wonder how the relatives felt, being invaded by this small army for such a long period)!
So far we have not located current descendants of Mary Fox Rodd.
Henry Alabaster’s Account of the
H B M Consulate }
The story does not end there. Unfortunately King Mongkut contracted malaria, and in two months he had died. A tragic ending to an amazing celebration.
Henry’s wife, Palacia Alabaster, had painted a picture of the scene at the Jungle Palace which is now in the Public Record Office PRO FO 69/46/810S
Reproduced below is a small section from the picture, but the original is in bright colour. A better, miniature reproduction of this is enclosed with the Chronicle (printed version) for you to keep.
In the summer of 1939, teenage sisters Sue and Eileen Alabaster were looking forward to their younger cousins Rosetta and Iris Ridley coming over from East London to visit them in Lewisham, south of the Thames. Little did Sue know that the next time she would see Rosetta and Iris would be in January 2002 - over 60 years later!
This happy reunion came about by good fortune during my family research. Sue and my late mother, Eileen, were the daughters of 'Jack' Alabaster. Rosetta and Iris were the daughters of one of Jack's sisters, Rose(tta) Alabaster. 'Jack' and Rose(tta) were two of the eight children of Agnes and William Alabaster (there were also two older half brothers).
I had ordered the death certificate of the youngest of the ten children, Ivy Alabaster, who died in 1985 aged 79. The name of the informant on the certificate was Edward Heard. A week earlier, this name would have meant nothing - but I had just discovered that the younger Rosetta had married an Edward Heard!
Armed with his address on the certificate, I rang Directory Enquiries just on the off-chance that the Heards were still at the same address as they were in 1985. Thankfully, they were and I was given the number. Rather nervously I rang it, not knowing whether Rosetta was even still alive. So I was mightily relieved when Rosetta answered the phone, full of energy and very much alive! Apparently, only a week before, she and Iris had been wondering about whatever had happened to their long lost cousins, 'Sue' and Eileen. The war seems to have split the two families up. Rosetta and Iris were bombed out of their home in Leyton, whilst 'Sue' and Eileen moved to another house in Lewisham due to bomb damage.
So it was, that on a murky Sunday in January 2002, the three surviving cousins were reunited at Rosetta and 'Ted' Heard's home in Woodford, North-East London, together with Rosetta's eldest son Stephen, Iris's husband Don Lewis, Sue's son Martin George and myself. A nostalgic day was spent filling in the missing years and comparing family similarities and agreeing not to wait 60 years before another reunion!
We were all promised a share of the family heirloom - cuttings from an aspidistra plant that had belonged to my great grandparents, Agnes and William Alabaster from Bethnal Green! So we now reckon the Alabaster coat of arms should be changed to an aspidistra!
Children of Agnes and William Alabaster
William (1889-1949) - children: William, John, Cecilia
John 'Jack' Lewis (1891-1963) - children: Susan, Eileen
Agnes 'Doll' Laura (1895-1966) - children: Alfred, William, George, Agnes, Ivy, Jean
George Albert (1897-1980) : none
Charles Thomas (1898-1950) - children: Eric, Iris, Linda
Frederick 'Mick' James (1901-1939) - children: Mary, Michael
Rosetta Elizabeth (1903-1985) - children: Rosetta, Iris, Robert
Ivy Alice (1906-1985) : none
Alabaster Gathering - Number Six
Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th April 2002
We are now only weeks away from the next Alabaster Gathering! Many of the seventy of you who are booked to come will have been with us during one of the previous five such events, but for those who have not been before, or have short memories, here are some reminders of what is planned!
On the Saturday, we will be based at the Old School*, Bridge Street, Hadleigh (map enclosed with this Chronicle if you are booked to come). Arrive as soon as you can after 10.00am. There will be coffee and biscuits for you as you settle in, and it is always surprising how much time is needed: there are distant family and friends to talk to, some of whom you will not have seen for three years, and new friends to make; there will be displays to study and you must find yourself on the giant tree of those present, and put your signature alongside your name! You may even like to buy yourself an Alabaster badge, order a brooch, buy a copy of The Alabaster Quintet, by Adrian Alabaster, or back-copies of the Chronicle. We also hope to have specially produced binders available for purchase in which you can store your copies of the Alabaster Chronicle.
At 11.00am we will have a "General Meeting of the Alabaster Society" just to go over the bits about reports and finance. This is your chance to put your own views forward if you have any suggestions or want anything to be done differently. Now that we have more than 100 members, it has been suggested, for example, that we should have a larger committee - even if we only ever meet "by phone"! What do you think?
After the formalities of the meeting are over, Tony Springall, who along with Sue Andrews is writing a book on the Alabasters in Hadleigh, has agreed to give us an illustrated talk about the early Alabasters, particularly about the time before they came to Hadleigh when they were in North Norfolk.
This will take us on to the buffet lunch, after which I will spend some time talking about the Alabasters (Branch IV) who, centuries later, returned to Norfolk, but this time East Norfolk, that is Gt Yarmouth. I hope this will be of some interest to everybody because so many of this family ended up in different parts of the world, possibly a natural progression because they lived so close to the sea. Alternatively, if the lunch is THAT good, it might be an opportunity to sleep it off!
After my talk, you have another choice; if you have not previously been to Hadleigh Church and seen the memorial brasses to our Alabaster ancestors, I would highly recommend that you take this opportunity to do so. Hilary Griffin has kindly agreed to be there to show you these. Incidentally, there is an Exhibition of Paintings in the church over this weekend. If you are staying in Hadleigh over night from the Friday to the Saturday, then you may be interested to know that the church will be open to visitors from 8.00pm to 9.30pm on Friday 26th, and Alabaster visitors would be very welcome. (Its free, apparently, and there will be wine and nibbles available!)
Back to Saturday afternoon; Sue Andrews, the Hadleigh archivist, and associate member of our Society, has offered to have the Hadleigh archives, housed in the Guildhall, open for us. She will ensure that she has some original Alabaster documents on view, and may even be able to provide photocopies of some of them. You could also use the opportunity to have a tour of the Guildhall - this is a building that has played a big part in the life of Hadleigh over the centuries, and must have done so in the lives of our ancestors. In fact, Thomas Alabaster was one of the Chief Inhabitants of Hadleigh, who were responsible for buying the Guildhall back from the crown after the dissolution of the monasteries.
Alternatively, you are welcome to stay in the Old School and relax and talk. From 4.30pm - 5.00pm tea and biscuits will be available there. After that, we need to leave the building free for Tom and Miranda McIntosh, our hosts, to get it ready for our dinner in the evening.
Our dinner, at which there will be more than fifty of us, is at 7.00pm for 7.30pm. Judging by the excellent meal we enjoyed at the Old School in 1999, this should be worth anticipating. It will be followed by a talk from Sqn. Ldr. John Bloomfield, FRSA:"Something on the History of Hadleigh".
On the Sunday, 28th April, we will be leaving Hadleigh at 9.15am and travelling to Norfolk by coach. The journey will take us along a route which touches on a few of the other areas in which the Alabasters lived in the 17th and 18th centuries, which I hope to be able to tell you about as we travel. There will also be the challenge of the "Norfolk Alabaster Quiz" which will give you a chance to show whether you were actually listening to the talks on the Saturday, and me a chance to find out!
We will be visiting Gt Yarmouth as our first port of call (literally a port!) and will be dropped outside the Star Hotel where we will later be having lunch. This is a striking building that looks out over the River Yare. Parts of it date back to the 17th century, so it must have been well known to the Alabasters who lived very close by in the 19th century.
Colin Tooke, a local historian and author of many books on Yarmouth, will be giving a guided walk around some of the places in the town which survive and relate particularly to the Alabasters. These include the Parish Church, where they were baptised, married and buried, and Market Row, St Georges Road, part of George Street and the site of Row 20, where some of them lived. Other members have chosen to visit the Merchants House which is run by English Heritage.
At 12.30pm we will be back in the Star Hotel for a lunch in their Carvery Restaurant, before continuing our trip further into the wilds of Norfolk to Worstead Church. We have been assured of a warm welcome there and should be given a tour of this beautiful church, especially the ornate screen which was erected in the 15th century, by John Alblaster! (If you listened to Tony Springall carefully the previous day, you will be aware of this fact! ) This will be followed by tea, after which we will return to Hadleigh!
If you have booked for the Gathering, there should be a letter of confirmation and a request for payment of any balance outstanding with this Chronicle. If you have not booked, but wish to do so at the last minute, contact me to see if we can fit you in!
*The Old School was previously the National School building, which in turn was built on the site of the Alabaster School, provision for which was made in the Will of John Alabaster in 1637.