Picture by Rupert Fox from a design by Michael William Alabaster

 

The Alabaster Chronicle 

The Journal of the Alabaster Society 

 

NUMBER EIGHT,  SPRING 1997 
 

 Contents

      • Editorial, by Laraine Hake
      • News from Around the World
        James Alabaster Strugnell, by Maureen Strugnell
        Paul Alabaster writes about Branch IIA
        Dorothy Gould eats dessert first!
        Nicholas Alabaster (WofW) marries Susan Markey
              in Hadleigh Guildhall, by Robin Alabaster
        John Stammers Alabaster, a 70th Anniversary
        An Alabaster on the wireless
        Emma Jane born, by Joan Watts (IIIB)
        Video of 1996 Gathering, by Pauline & Brian Alabaster
        Stephanie born, by Shirley Rowe (IIA)
        Aidan Connor Duffy born, by Molly Duffy (IIC)
        Records at Society of Australian Genealogists, by Beryl Neumann (IIA)
        Jeremy Springall (IIA) marries Louise Taylor, by Tony Springall
      • 1881 Census - Orphans in the Workhouse (IIIB)
      • A Family Bible, by Laraine Hake (IIA)
      • An Alabaster Family in Bethnal Green in the Latter Half of
                           the Nineteenth Century, by Laraine Hake (IIA)
      • Uncle Sid Alabaster, by Alf Oram (IIA)


Editorial

by Laraine Hake

At last, I appear to have completed Number Eight; my sincere apologies to anybody who has actually noticed during the past month that there was a gap in his or her life: the Chronicle was overdue!  
For me it has been a good six or seven months, Alabaster-wise, both past and present. Last September we joined with Eileen Alabaster (IIIB) and her Guides for a most enjoyable Activity Weekend in Kent, in November we attended the evening of Nicholas Alabaster's (WofW) wedding held in Hadleigh Guildhall, now licensed for marriages, which was an event to remember.
I continue to be astonished by the amount of evidence regarding the lives of our ancestors that continues to surface with the help of a few members burrowing away at research. Tony Springall has managed to unearth an Alabaster Pedigree at the Public Record Office, every genealogist's dream. This has turned out to relate to Tony and my shared Alabaster ancestors in Branch IIA, and I hope to produce an article about it for a future Chronicle. I visited Kensal Green Cemetery with Peter Alabaster (WofW) in a hunt for the site of the grave of James Chaloner Alabaster (IIC) and family. After surreptitious (very gentle) removal of earth, we think we not only found the site but the buried gravestone as well; another visit will be made in the summer.
Martin Alabaster (IIB) and Erica made a visit to the USA and included some time visiting Hal Alabaster (IV) having previously "met" through the Internet! Sadly, Hal's mother, Fernleigh Alabaster, died during October this year, aged 84. I am told that she had enjoyed being a member and reading the Chronicles.
Lastly, a reference to the research on my immediate Alabaster family which seems to have dominated my thoughts for the past few weeks. To my utter amazement, this is the second item that has surfaced during the past six months that related to my very own Alabaster sector. I am open to the criticism of self-indulgence, because my article does seem to occupy a good chunk of this Chronicle, but, I guess, self-indulgence could be seen as one of the benefits of being editor, and if no other articles appear then I have every excuse.
Please keep the letters etc. coming in.................and articles too!

Lastly, the last weekend of April 1999 is the suggestion for a Gathering - comments please!

2nd April 1997


News from Around the World

October 1996:  
The Secretary of Haverhill Branch of Suffolk Family History Society, Maureen Strugnell, showed me a family tree drawn up by Commander Walter Strugnell (W. Hawkes-Strugnell after marriage) which includes:
 

 
James Strugnell
b. 1747, d. 20 Mar 1796
in India Office, Lieut. R.N.
m. c. 1790
Elizabeth Baker
b. 1758, d. 11 Apr 1842
at Southwark, London
 
James Alabaster Strugnell
b. c. 1782
d. 18 Feb 1807
Lieut. R.N. 
William Baker
Strugnell
b. 27 Jan 1785
d. 2 Jun 1850
Lieut. R.N. 
Henry Strugnell
b. 21 Sep 1793
d. 12 Mar 1814
Lieut. R.N. 
Thos. Pye Bennett
Strugnell
b. 2 Aug 1795
d. 19 Nov 1858
Master Mariner 
 

Calling their eldest son James Alabaster must have had a significance: it is hardly a name that is pulled out of the air! Presumably it was a family name.........any ideas? 

Paul Alabaster (IIA) 25th October 1996:
I have been talking to a Jeweller in Bristol - Andrew Alabaster, Compton Bishop, Somerset; Grandfather, Henry. Also Aunt, Mrs Tilling. It might be worth getting in touch..........Henry, I believe, was quite an artist. Perhaps I should not have set another hare running!!
I contacted Andrew: he too turns out to fit into Branch IIA, sharing James the publican as a gt gt grandfather with Paul! Andrew's aunt, "Mrs Tilling" has now joined the Society. I was delighted to realise that she and Dorothy Gould are actually second cousins; Dorothy's grandfather, Alfred William being the older brother of Henry, the artist! LH

Dorothy Gould (IIA) December 1996:
(Dorothy had sent extra money with her subs as a possible donation, and I had replied that she her subs were now paid in advance for the next four years...........)
Thank you for the thought that I'll be here in four years and still able to read your newsletter. At my age I don't even buy green bananas! Life is uncertain, so I eat my dessert first!

Robin Alabaster (WofW) November 1996:
On 1st November, at the Guildhall, Hadleigh, the marriage took place of our eldest son, Nicholas, to Susan Markey.  

John Stammers Alabaster (I) 6th December 1996:
We celebrated our 70th Anniversaries at home with a grand gathering of the family this summer, grand-children and their numerous cousins included. It really was a wonderful way to keep in touch. This was followed in the Autumn by a wedding of my niece Anne where the party was ever larger: David played some cello pieces during the signing, and I had the temerity to accompany him on the piano!  

December 1996:
One of my mother's pupils made a note and phoned to say that a primary school from Banbury, Oxon. had been singing carols on Capital Radio, and that either the teacher or the pianist was an Alabaster!

Joan Watts nee Alabaster (IIIB) Christmas Card 1996:
I have another little granddaughter - Emma Jane - born 2nd July. Three little girls now!

Pauline and Brian Alabaster (WofW) December 1996:
Half a year gone already, it took the first 3 months for Brian to make a copy, now 3 months for me to get round to posting it. The copy is un-edited - warts an' all.
Herewith was a video of the events of the 1996 Alabaster Gathering, sent all the way from Australia. My mother and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, all the way through!!!!

Shirley Rowe (IIA) December 1996:
Our granddaughter, Stephanie, weighed in at 8 lb on 3rd December 1996.  

Molly Duffy (IIC) Christmas 1996:
 .......Another busy year with the addition of our first grandson, Aidan Connor Duffy.

Beryl Neumann (IIA) 30th January 1997:
I was fairly busy during the latter part of last year putting together most of the material I have on the Alabaster Family. This I handed in to the Society of Australian Genealogists at the end of November....... They have assured me that these records will survive flood, fire and earthquake.  

Tony Springall (IIA) March 1997:
Another entry for your Alabaster descendants records: my middle son Jeremy (Colin) married Louise Taylor at Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church, Warwickshire last Saturday. Fantastic day & weather great.

To Contents


1881 Census: Orphans in the Workhouse

The gradual indexing of the 1881 census for the whole of England and Wales has resulted in more and more pieces of the jig-saw fitting together. With the aid of the index for Essex we found that at the beginning of April 1881, when the census was taken, David Alabaster aged 11 and his brother, John, aged 9 were in the Bethnal Green Workhouse and School, in Leyton, Essex.
In Chronicle Number Five I wrote, "Research does give some indication of the reason" (they were in the workhouse). "David and John were the sons of David Alabaster and his wife Annie, nee Aaron (IIIB). Their father, David, had died in 1877, at the age of 33, apparently leaving Annie with four young children; Ann 10, David 8, John 6 and Mary Ann six months. Annie, herself, died, aged 35 during the first quarter of 1881, leaving the children as orphans. Presumably, Mary Ann was not in the Workhouse: she was certainly living with the sister and brother-in-law of her mother ten years later, at the age of 14, on the 1891 census, and they may have taken her in immediately. It is good to be able to report that both David and John appear to have survived the Workhouse and went on to marry in 1898 and 1899 respectively."
In April 1996, following publication of that Chronicle, I received a letter from Bryan Alabaster, the grandson of John who was aged 9 in 1881.
"I enclose a photocopy which refers to John Alabaster leaving 'The Institution`. There is no date on it but the bible from which it was taken was found amongst my Aunt's possessions following her death last month. My Aunt was Winifred Emily Alabaster the daughter of John and had she lived she would have been 90 years old this June."
Now that the 1881 census for London and Middlesex has been indexed, we can see what did happen to the two girls, Ann and Mary Ann, sisters to David and John.

280 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green

Aron Aron (sic)

Head

Unm

22

Clerk

bn Bethnal Green

Jane     "

Sister

"

18

 

"

Henry  "

Brother

 

15

Upholsterer`s Apprentice

"

Annie Alabaster

Niece

 

13

 

"

Mary Ann Alabaster

Niece

 

  4

 

"

 

This does complete the picture. Their mother's brother was only 22 years old himself and one can imagine the decision to take in the girls but accepting that the boys would have to cope in the Workhouse.
How families had to hang together in those days, and obviously did when needed. Ten years later in 1891, Mary Ann was living with another of her mother's sisters, Rebecca Stockwell, and her family at 401 Bethnal Green Road.

To Contents


A Family Bible

by Laraine Hake

During the Spring of 1996, my mother told me that an acquaintance of hers had mentioned that she had a long-standing friend named "Bea Alabaster". I searched my Alabaster database but could locate nobody suitably named, presumably Beatrice, either born or married to an Alabaster. I was pleased, therefore, when sometime later I received a telephone call from Bea, born Beryl, Alabaster. We spoke for a while and I asked her for what details she knew of her Alabaster grandfather in order to locate her on the overall tree. I was rendered almost speechless (almost) when I realised that her grandfather, George, was the brother of my grandmother, Adeline, and that Bea and I share great grandparents, Thomas and Cordelia Alabaster, and are thus second cousins. I think that I was actually rendered speechless when she mentioned a memory of a Family Bible belonging to Thomas and Cordelia, and that she had a photocopy of four hand-written pages from this Bible in her possession...............!

With a Christmas card, Bea enclosed a copy of these pages, -- pages which have really given me some insight into the lives of my immediate Alabaster ancestors and an idea of life and death in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  

I knew that my great grandmother, Cordelia Victoria (nee Jolly), had had several babies and that some had died young, not an uncommon situation at this time, but until these pages arrived, I had not realised the full story, nor empathised and recognised the suffering that was part of the life of many of our forebears. Included in the births shown on these pages is that of my grandmother, Adeline Bertha Alabaster, born January 30th 1881, and that of Bea's grandfather, George Alabaster, born May 27th 1876. Other names I recognised but several I did not; Gilbert Stephen Alabaster had died during World War I and Ada Victoria had died in her teens, but what about Harold John, Alfred Ernest, Elizabeth Jane and the others who had died as babies. Of the fifteen births, seven had died before the age of ten years, five of these before their first birthdays.

The more I studied the details on the pages, the more I became interested and involved in finding out the background to their lives, hence the several pages that follow this!

To Contents


An Alabaster Family in Bethnal Green
in the Latter Half of the Nineteenth Century
.

by Laraine Hake

The character of an area such as Bethnal Green, where the family of Thomas and Cordelia Alabaster lived until 1883, must have changed dramatically as the nineteenth century grew older. Thomas's grandparents, Charles Henry and Sarah Alabaster, nee Mead, had moved to Bethnal Green from Shoreditch in about 1830. Sarah's father, Thomas Blewett Mead had died in 1830 in Fyfield, Essex, leaving "unto my daughter Sarah Alabaster all those my five freehold messuages Nos 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 Coventry street, Bethnal Green ............... and also all those my three messuages Nos. 5, 6, and 7 in Cross Street, Three Colt Lane, Bethnal Green..........". An indenture dated as early as 15th August 1809, shows Thomas Blewett Mead involved in the lease and release of property bounded by Abington Street, Parliament Street and Bethnal Green Road.1 Judging by maps of that period, this part of Bethnal Green must have been well to the east of the metropolis of London, bordering on open countryside.


Descendants of Thomas Blewett Mead

Thomas Blewett MEAD b 1773, d 9 February 1830
+ Sarah LEE b 1774, d 22 December 1845
|____Sarah MEAD b 2 March 1798 Christopher Alley, Shoreditch, d November 1857
|.........+ Charles Henry ALABASTER b 3 January 1797 King Street, Shoreditch,
|         |                                                              d 18 October 1861 14 Coventry street, Bethnal Green
|.........|____Mary Ann ALABASTER b 26 June 1824 Clifton Street, Shoreditch
|.........|.........+ William James MANSFIELD
|.........|..................Geoffrey MANSFIELD
|.........|..................Margaret EVANS (nee Mansfield)
|.........|..................Brian MANSFIELD
|.........|..................Andrew CLARK
|.........|____Thomas ALABASTER b 7 February 1828 Shoreditch, d 11 October 1889 19 Paradise Row, Bethnal Green 
|.........|.........+ Sarah Letitia LAWRENCE b 24 March 1823 Helions Bumpstead, Essex,
|         |         |                                 d 20 March 1868 10 Coventry Street, Bethnal Green
|.........|.........|____Thomas ALABASTER b17 June 1853 6 Bartholomew Place, Bethnal Green,
|         |         |                                                     d 12 December 1924 208 Fleeming Road, Walthamstow, E17
|.........|.........|.........+ Cordelia Victoria JOLLY b 3 October 1852 22 Bedford Street, Stepney,
|         |         |                                                              d 17 August 1939 208 Fleeming Road, Walthamstow
|.........|.........|....................Alfred ORAM
|.........|.........|....................Leslie ORAM
|.........|.........|....................Sylvia GOOD (nee Chapman)
|.........|.........|....................Barry ORAM
|.........|.........|....................Michael ORAM
|.........|.........|....................Laraine HAKE (nee Oram)
|.........|.........|....................Janine HOWLE (nee Oram)
|.........|.........|____Edwin ALABASTER b 31 July 1855 5 Cross Street, Bethnal Green, d June 1932 West Ham
|.........|.........|____Catherine ALABASTER b June 1857 Bethnal Green
|.........|.........|____Sarah ALABASTER b 28 June 1859 10 Cross Street, Bethnal Green, d 12 April 1940
|.........|..................+ William Lake RICHARDS b 1856
|.........|..............................Anthony SPRINGALL
|.........|____Robert ALABASTER b 28 July 1835 Bethnal Green, d 12 December 1864
|.........|........+Harriet HARRIS b 1828, d 17 Frbruary 1908 Hackney
|.........|..................Norman ALABASTER
|.........|..................Philip ALABASTER
|.........|..................Beryl NEUMANN (nee Young)
|.........|____others
|____others


Thomas's father, Thomas, was born in Shoreditch in 1827, so must have moved to 14 Coventry Street, Bethnal Green with his parents when he was about three years old. He married Sarah Letitia Lawrence in 1852 in St Philips Church, Bethnal Green. Sarah was a real country girl, having been born in Helions Bumpstead, on the Essex/Suffolk border in 1823 where her father farmed. Her family had moved to Bethnal Green in the late 1830s where her father became a Hackney Carriage Driver. In 1852, at the time of her marriage, she was living in 10 Cross Street. Within this small area of streets, Thomas and Sarah Letitia had and raised their family. The 1861 census shows Thomas and Sarah Letitia with their family, including Thomas aged 7, later to marry Cordelia, at 10 Coventry Street. At numbers 13 and 14 Coventry Street lived other Alabasters, including Charles Henry, now a widower aged 64 with three unmarried daughters at number 14, and his son Charles with his wife and various nephews and nieces at number 13.

The 1871 census finds Thomas, aged 17, a dock messenger, living with his mother's brother, George Lawrence in Wellington Row, Bethnal Green, his mother, Sarah Letitia having died in 1868. He married Cordelia Victoria Jolly, daughter of George Jolly, an ironmonger, and Jane nee Davidson, at Hackney Parish Church on 11th May 1873.

Left: Bethnal Green 1819

Thomas and Cordelia lived at various addresses, but all within the same small area of Bethnal Green. Their first child, Emily Augusta was born in Suffolk Street, a continuation to the south of Coventry Street, in April 1874, then from 1875 until early 1881 the family lived at 3 Abingdon Street. On the 1881 census, that is 4th April 1881, they were at 105 Willmott Street and then at 20 Pitt Street by 1883. How the family must have seen a change in that area of Bethnal Green between the time early in the century, when Thomas's great grandfather, Thomas Blewet Mead, became involved with property in this part of Bethnal Green and the 1880s. On Charles Booths Descriptive Map of London Poverty 18892, Abingdon Street and Willmott Street are shown as "mixed - some comfortable, others poor", whilst Pitt Street is given as "poor 18/- to 21/- a week for a moderate family". Infant mortality was high at the end of the nineteenth century, the worst year on record being 1899 when 163 out of every 1,000 babies died before they reached the age of one year.3 Presumably this statistic is an average over the whole country; how much worse was it in the now urban areas, like Bethnal Green, than the rural country?

By 1883 the first seven of the babies whose lives were recorded in the Bible had been born, and my assumption was that many of them had lived but a short time and that this was a typical family of the times and area. However, plotting the births and deaths on a graph threw up a different possible interpretation of events. I realised that by June 1883, seven babies had indeed been born; one daughter, Elizabeth Jane, born in 1875, had only lived for two weeks, but the cause of her death was given as Spina Bifida which makes an early death no great surprise, but in June of 1883 the remaining family of six children were alive and, probably, well. Emily, the eldest was nine years old, George was seven, Cordelia six, Alfred was three, Adeline two and Walter, the baby just four months old. It would appear likely, then, that their lives began to fall apart.

Right: Bethnal Green 1862

On 23rd June 1883, Walter Ambrose, the baby of this family of six children, died. The death certificate records the cause of death as "Violent. Shock. Scalds. Accidental" An inquest was held four days later on 27th June. Just one month later, Alfred Ernest, aged three years and eight months, died. This time the cause of death was "Stomatitis. Exhaustion." In less than five weeks the family of six children had become a family of four.

 

Thomas was thirty years old at this time. He had lived within a small area of Bethnal Green all of his life, but the following year, 8th April 1884, when another daughter, Florence Gertrude Alabaster was born her birth was not registered in East London at all, but south of the River Thames, in St Olave, Southwark. Thomas and Cordelia appear to have moved, with their remaining family, to a completely "foreign" part of London. It is easy to believe that the tragedy of losing two sons in such a short time had spurred the family to move away from their origins and attempt to rebuild their lives in a different area. Thomas was employed as a Colonial Sampler, presumably based at the London docks, so his place of work would have remained unchanged.

Another son, Sidney Herbert, was born on 1st February, 1886, as recorded in the Bible. Once again, his birth appears to have taken place in South London. In 1887 the family were living at 4 Cromwell Buildings, Southwark. At the turn of the year Emily would have been twelve, George ten, Cordelia eight, Adeline six, Florence two, and baby Sidney just coming up to his first birthday. On 8th January, Cordelia Catherine, died of Cerebra Spinal Meningitis Conda. The informant was Thomas Alabaster, father, present at the death. Infant mortality might have been a fact of life at this time, but a child of eight was not an infant. How terribly sad for the family, for the parents and the other children.

Adeline Bertha, my grandmother, was six years old then. How must she have felt at the death of her sister. Years later, in 1903, Adeline named her first daughter Cordelia. I had assumed it was after her mother, but I wonder now whether it was her sister she was remembering. Sadly, little Cordelia Oram was also to die before her first birthday.

By the end of that year, 1887, when Horace Edmund was born, the family had moved again, this time to the very outskirts of London, actually Leyton, Essex.

Five more children were born between 1888 and 1893. Of these Harold John died at three months, Victor Augustus at six months and Christopher Davidson at two months of age. I wonder if Thomas and Cordelia became hardened to these events, or whether each one continued to hurt as much as the first. Ada Victoria, the youngest daughter, lived until 1911 when she was seventeen. Then she died of Hodgkins disease, an ailment which now has a 90% recovery rate. Gilbert Stephen, the youngest surviving son, died at the age of twenty-seven, on 5th April 1918 in France during World War One.

So by the end of 1918, after fifteen births, only six of the children were living. I have been told that Horace Edmund emigrated to Canada before the Great War, although I have no further information on this. The five remaining each lived to a ripe old age; I just wonder what effect these early experiences had, if any, on their later lives.


The family of Thomas and Cordelia Victoria Alabaster

Thomas ALABASTER b 17 June 1853 Bethnal Green, d 12 December 1924 Walthamstow London E17, m 11 May 1873,
+ Cordelia Victoria JOLLY, b 3 October 1852 Stepney, d 17 August 1939 Walthamstow E17
|____Emily Augusta, b 30 April 1874, d 15 August 1956 age 76
|____Elizabeth Jane, b 22 June 1875, d 6 July 1875 age 2 weeks - spina bifida
|____George, b 27 May 1876, d 6 September 1957, age 81
|.........+ Fanny
|____Cordelia Catherine, b 27 April 1878, d 8 January 1887 age 8 - cerebra spinal meningitis conda
|____Alfred Ernest, b 24 November 1879, d 25 July 1883 age 3 yrs 8 months - stomatitis exhaustion
|____Adeline Bertha, b 30 January 1881, d 21 June 1960 age 79
|.........+ Ernest George Gillingham ORAM, b 11 February 1874, d 1939
|____Walter Ambrose, b 23 February 1883, d 23 June 1883, age 4 months - violent shock, scalds, accidental
|____Florence Gertrude, b 8 April 1884, d 1961 age 77
|.........+ Philip SMITH
|____Sidney Herbert, b 1 February 1886, d 7 October 1966 age 80
|.........+ Daisy Florence LEWIS, d June 1937 Dartford
|.........+ Christina Hill JONES
|____Horace Edmund, b 3 December 1887, went to Canada pre-1914
|____Harold John, b 9 December 1888, d 26 May 1889 age 5 months - tabes mesenterica (TB)
|____Victor Augustus, b 9 January 1890, d 31 July 1890 age 6 months - tabes mesenterica (TB)
|____Gilbert Stephen, b 27 March 1891, d 5 April 1918 age 27 in France serving with the 6th Battalion,
                                                                                        Northamptonshire Regiment
|.........+ Ruth Mary LEWIS
|____Christopher Davidson, b 12 May 1892, d 1 August 1892 age 2 months - broncho-pneumonia
|____Ada Victoria b 20 November 1893, d 31 July 1911 age 17 - Hodgkins disease


My own Nana, Adeline Bertha, must have been aware, at the time, of the deaths of eight of her siblings. She had eight children herself. Her first son was named Ernest, after her husband, but the first daughter was Cordelia. There followed four more daughters and then two sons. The first of these boys she named Alfred Henry; could this have been in memory of her brother, Alfred Ernest? Her youngest baby was my father, Leslie Victor. He was born in 1919, so perhaps the "Victor" was a reflection of the end of the war, or perhaps it was a memory of Victor Augustus.

Tracing a family history can take you right back to hundreds of years ago, as we have been very aware at the Gatherings in Hadleigh, but this Bible and the research that has ensued, has made me even more aware of my ancestors as real people; thinking and breathing and loving and hurting, just like us. I do hope they experienced happiness, just like us too.

References:

      1. Tower Hamlets Local History Library
      2. Charles Booths's Descriptive Map of London Poverty, 1889, pub.130 London Topographical Society, reprinted 1984
      3. Medicine & Health Through Time, Dawson & Coulson, pub John Murray(Publishers) Ltd


And there's more.........................!

The discovery of the existence of these pages from a Bible and the information they contained had another effect; they produced reminiscences on the part of both my father, Leslie Victor Oram and my uncle, Alfred Henry Oram. Uncle Alf's childhood memory that follows - he would have been about eight years old and my father aged four - encapsulates a memory of living history and reflects a little of the later lives of two of those surviving babies, Adeline Bertha and Sidney Herbert whose births were recorded in a Bible just about one hundred years ago.   

As we go to print, I have just managed to discover the details of the inquest into the death of Walter Ambrose, aged 4 months, in 1883. I will complete the story by describing these in Chronicle Number Nine.
To go there directly, click here.

To Contents


Uncle Sid Alabaster

by Alf Oram

One of my most vivid memories of the Alabaster family is when my Mother, who was an Alabaster by birth, got a message to say her brother was going to visit us. Just think "Uncle Sid" was going to visit Walthamstow.  
I guess the year would have been around 1923. Now Uncle Sid, being a master builder, was a rich man: we were told he built many houses in Bexleyheath, Kent. Our family was poor, we lived in Ickworth Park Road, Walthamstow. The house was situated next door to a garage which blanked off one end of the road. This garage was used as a parking space for about a dozen heavy lorries which transported meat from Smithfield Market to local butchers.
However, there was panic stations when the letter arrived to say that Uncle Sid was to visit us. My father, being an ex-Naval man, was very smart and he wasn't going to let the side down. Even when visiting the local pub, he would wear his bowler hat and there would always be a flower in his buttonhole. If a flower was not available in the garden, he would pinch one from someone's front garden on the way. So, the order of the day was "everything shipshape". Out came the bucket and mop, a pail of water was thrown over the floor and father, with his trousers rolled up, began to demonstrate how they washed the decks aboard ship. All rat holes in the front garden were to be filled. I think at times we could boast the largest rats in Walthamstow, without a doubt they were well fed: often large portions of meat were deposited on the garage floor when the lorries were cleaned out but before the cleaners could sweep the floor, the rats would beat them to it.
The great day came: my brother Les and I, with our hair tidy and boots polished, waited patiently for Uncle Sid to arrive. What transport would he use? Pony and trap, or perhaps a motor cycle and sidecar. We soon found out for about 11am a "chugg-chugg" could be heard and amid a cloud of smoke Uncle Sid's car turned into our road. There he was driving a bright red machine. I think it was called a Swift, built around 1920. It was an open-top vehicle. It had a large brass radiator, a brass oil lamp each side of the windscreen and one big carbide head lamp perched in front. Anyway, up the road the "ole girl" puffed, and there was "Uncle Sid", with peaked hat, driving gloves, goggles, the lot, hanging on to the steering wheel like grim death. Beside him was Auntie, looking prim and proper, ready to tackle the London to Brighton Rally.
While the visit was going on, my brother and I made it our business to guard the car; none of the kids from our road was going to touch our Uncle's car. However with the visit over, out came Aunt and Uncle followed by my smiling parents, then he did was brother Les and I had hoped, he put his hand in his pocket and produced two coins - a shilling each. Imagine, a whole shilling! That was twelve weeks` pocket money. We were millionaires!!! I don't know how my parents got on, but I noticed Dad sported two "Button Holes" when he visited the pub later.
So with handshakes all round, Uncle and Aunt boarded this car, Auntie with her hat at a rakish angle, Uncle with his goggles hanging round his neck, they were ready to depart. With the engine cranked and a gear selected, then with a few coughs, the old car began to move slowly backwards, ready to make the turn to the open road and the long trip to Bexleyheath. As the smoke died down and our rich relations disappeared from sight, I am sure we all thought, "Don't make it too long before you visit again, Uncle Sid!"

Alf Oram (IIA)
To Contents

 


My Introduction to the Alabaster Society

by Ian Alabaster

1996 was a pleasant but most unusual year for me. Starting the year from the perspective of genealogy, I did have a collection of old birth, wedding and death certificates for my family but being 61, and the patriarch of my little branch of Alabasters, my two sons and their children made up, for me, the whole Alabaster world. My grandparents, on both sides, had cut or been cut off from their respective relatives and all other close relatives were deceased. All I knew was that the relatives had lived in the east end of London, Bethnal Green area.
This cosy little world was shattered when I decided to join the internet and received an e-mail telling me about the Alabaster Society, and telling me about Hadleigh. Masses of photocopies and earlier copies of the Alabaster Chronicles followed, and I just could not wait to visit Hadleigh, which I presumed to be a little village.
I immediately made plans to visit and booked accommodation in the town. Laraine contacted me and invited me to a Fork Supper being held by the Friends of Hadleigh Guildhall in connection with the restoration work and said that it might offer a chance to look over parts of the Guildhall not always available to the general public. Well, it took me just the time to reach for the telephone to confirm that I would be there.
I left early from my home on the Isle of Wight and travelled up through Essex via Colchester, which by its very nature began to make me think of ancient ancestors catching a mail-coach for Hadleigh just down the road. I envisaged the pot-holed track that there would have been with the coach bouncing up and down. I was not really ready for the quite large market town in which I discovered myself. I found my accommodation where I was well looked after, and discovered that the other guest there was from Essex University and was studying Guildhalls. I visited St Mary's church, which was close by, to see the Alabaster brasses that Laraine had told me about and to see the Guildhall and Deanery from outside. The feeling of walking where my past relatives had gone before was, as Dame Edna says, "quite spooky". I stood there in the beautiful sunshine in another dimension, seeing figures in cloaks and puritan hats going about their business; it was so peaceful and serene. I really romanced about things, albeit that the reality of those time was likely quite harsh.
That evening I met Laraine for the first time at the Fork Supper in the Guildhall and saw the documents that are still being interpreted and met a lot of people, ending up with a lot of souvenirs of the occasion, plus a good buffet which I enjoyed. I was amazed at the size and stature of the building.  
The next day I had been invited to join in a tour of the Guildhall being made by the Essex University study group, and you can believe that I was the first person there. It was, of course, a lecture tour and we saw all over the building. After clambering over parts still being renovated, I saw the priest hole on the second floor. I was shown how the building had been adapted over the years and was totally enthralled by the whole experience. I then saw the gardens and the fountain.  
I purchased a copy of "Hadleigh through the Ages" by W.A.B. Jones, which I read that evening at my lodgings, and realised how the Alabasters had had an influence on the town and its surroundings. I also realised what tough times they had lived through. I decided there and then I should return for a much longer stay when I could also visit some of the local places that W.A.B. Jones had mentioned.
I began by saying what a good year 1996 was, to find out that I have so many relatives in different branches is wonderful to somebody who was brought up with only a spinster aunt as a relative. I am sorry that I missed the Alabaster Gathering at Hadleigh, but will be there the next time, rest assured.

Ian Alabaster (WofW)
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News from Friends of the Guildhall

Fork Supper

This was a most enjoyable evening and gave members the first opportunity of seeing some of the work which the Archive Group is doing......

Spinners and Weavers return to Hadleigh

Over the first Bank Holiday in May, 3rd, 4th & 5th 1997, the Lavenham Spinners and Weavers are having a display in the Guild room. We are arranging an exhibition entitled "Hadleigh as a Cloth Town" to complement the display.

Sue Andrews was recently appointed by the Town Council as Joint Honorary Archivist with Cyril Cook. As these are honorary appointments all the work that they do is entirely voluntary and we are most grateful to them

(reproduced, with permission, from Guild News, newssheet of the Friends of Hadleigh Guildhall).

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