The Alabaster Chronicle
The Journal of the Alabaster Society
NUMBER SIXTEEN, SPRING 2001
by Laraine Hake - March 1996
Hello! Welcome to Alabaster Chronicle Number Sixteen!
I do hope you will enjoy reading this issue, in particular "Two Generations of Soldiers", an article by John Stammers Alabaster about his great-uncle and son who served in two very different wars at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. You will notice that this issue is an enormous 48 pages! When we produced the first issue, back in 1993, we were aiming at a regular 16 pages, since then 24 pages has become the norm. Hopefully, this will not be the only bumper issue. There are more longer articles in the pipeline, but these can only be maintained while we have members willing to write and provide them. Please do think about it…….whether it is 28 pages or a paragraph, the more contributors we have, the more interesting the Chronicle is likely to prove to be!
The Letter Pages have been a delight to compile for this issue. Several people have made specific comments about articles in previous Chronicles (nice to know it is actually read!) and others have contributed up to date information about their present day family. Very many thanks to you! Please keep the letters coming in!
With the next Chronicle, hopefully September 2001, you will be receiving booking forms for the next Gathering (see page 3) and a sheet to compile your own contribution to a new book of Alabasters (see page 2). These things are in hand!
Today is my mother's eightieth birthday! How true appears the maxim that time passes with increasing speed as you get older. I had my fiftieth birthday three weeks ago; were we really only sixty-nine and thirty-nine respectively at the time of the first Gathering we held in 1990!
As I write, I do believe Spring has actually arrived………the garden is calling me!
9th April 2001
by Laraine Hake
As many members are aware, after the death of Adrian Alabaster in October 1998, it was found that he had left "to the Alabaster Society, c/o Laraine Hake, the sum of two hundred pounds to be used at her discretion for the benefit of the members….."
It is very likely that Adrian actually envisaged no more than us all having "a drink on him" at the next Gathering, but I decided that I would use my "discretion" to see if something more lasting could be done. I sought the views of other members in Hadleigh in 1999 and various ideas were mooted. One suggestion was that a very special book containing details of the present membership of the Alabaster Society should be compiled, providing the Alabaster Society's own historical artefact for future generations; creating our own snapshot of Alabaster family history for Alabaster genealogists in the centuries to come!
As Adrian spent much time on his "Book of the Alabasters", eventually named "A Quintet of Alabasters", it actually seems quite fitting that his bequest should help provide a new "Book of the Alabasters" or at least a detailed picture of the members of the Alabaster Society at the commencement of the 21st century!
Overseeing a concept of this type will actually take a great deal more time and effort than I have available and I am delighted to be able to report that Ron Alabaster West has agreed to oversee and organise the project for which I, (and our descendants!) will be very grateful. Ron and his family have agreed to receive, file and index the written contributions too.
Ron has found a craftsman bookbinder who has a "Dickensian style workshop in Northampton" and who produces work of a very high quality - he actually binds diaries for the Queen! He will produce a part-leather bound 4D ring binder with the Alabaster Society shield on the front cover, impressed in gold leaf. This binder will be large enough to hold 100 acid-free A4 plastic sleeves and it is hoped that each of these will eventually contain a formatted sheet of information and a photograph of each member, with room on the back for additional details.
The sleeve and information sheet, along with suggestions on its completion, will be sent to all members with the next journal. We hope each member will be willing to take part in this exciting venture and fill in his or her own individual sheet.
With luck, the completed volume will be ready for the next Alabaster Gathering in April 2002, although there is a great deal of work to be done before then. After that, it will be kept by the secretary of the society, whether that is myself or another, and made available to members and bona fide genealogists. Alternatively, it could be lodged with an archive or record office, but this can be decided later.
How exciting it is to consider a unique record of Alabaster members in 2001 for future generations to muse over!
Alabaster Gathering - 2002
Remember that the next Alabaster Gathering is set to take place over the weekend of April 27th and 28th, 2002. After our excellent experience there in 1999, the Old School has been booked for all day Saturday, including a dinner in the evening, and I have plans to organise a coach trip to from Hadleigh to Norfolk on the Sunday.
Already, 79 people have expressed an interest in joining us on the Saturday and 56 on the Sunday!
More details and booking forms will be with the next Chronicle, but please note the date in your diary now!
An Alabaster visits the Savetsilas
by Angela Alabaster (IIA)
Henry Alabaster, (IIC), was born in Hastings, Sussex in 1836, the son of James Chaloner Alabaster of Piccadilly, London and his wife Sophia Harriet. Henry went East when he was 20, first to Hong Kong and then he was transferred to Siam (now Thailand). He was employed as a Student Interpreter, and eventually as Acting Consul. After a period in England, he returned to Bangkok and became Adviser to the King of Siam. He died in 1884, and was honoured by the King by a fine white marble monument in the Protestant Cemetery. Henry’s descendants in modern day Thailand, include several important members of Thai society.
When Adrian was doing research for his “Quintet of Alabasters”, he wrote to the Thai Embassy in London, where a good friend of Air Chief Marshal Siddhi Savetsila was able to put us in touch with him. Khun Siddhi sent us a great deal of information about his Grandfather, Henry Alabaster. When he and his family made a flying visit to London in 1995, we went to the Ambassador’s residence and had the pleasure of meeting them. Later we were invited to visit Thailand. It was a great sadness that Adrian was, by then, too ill to travel. However, after Adrian’s death, I visited Australia and stopped off in Bangkok on my way back to England. I was joined by my neighbour, Brenda Rust.
Thai Ambassador’s Residence, London, 1995.
An Obituary of an American Alabaster
by Laraine Hake
I came upon this obituary on the internet, and realised that Robert Bliss Alabaster was the father of Robbin Churchill, a recently joined member of our Society who had joined after a chance encounter with another Alabaster upon a British Airways flight (Chronicle No.14 page 19). Robert was the eldest son of Sidney Alabaster who had emigrated to USA in 1904 at the age of 16. So much detail is given here of Robert’s life in America, it struck me just how proud his father, and those previous generations in Gt Yarmouth, England, would have been.
Robert Bliss Alabaster (IV) (1914-2000)
“An original Iron Duke dies at 85
After the war, Bob resumed his career with Geigy (now Ciba) in New York City and Ardsley, N.Y. He served in the Army Reserves for 20 years and retired as a major. The family moved to Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., in 1956, where they lived for 16 years. He and his family transferred to Greensboro after the merger of Ciba and Geigy in 1972. He retired from Ciba Geigy in 1985, as advertising manager after 42 years. He spent his retirement playing golf at Forest Oaks Country Club, refinishing furniture, keeping his yard in pristine condition and always supporting the Blue Devils' athletic teams. His wife preceded him in death in 1993, and afterwards he moved to the Piedmont Center in Thomasville. Surviving are three daughters, Robbin Churchill of Atlanta, Gwen Rocque of New Rochelle, N.Y., and Erica Graves of Trinity; two sisters, Charlotte Walker of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., and Dorothy Pless of Jensen Beach, Fla.; a brother, Alfred Alabaster of Jensen Beach; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren." My sympathy goes out to Robbin and her sisters and their children, and to Robert’s brother and sister, Alfred (Moe) Alabaster and Dorothy Pless, (also recent members). Many thanks to Robbin for agreeing to the use of her father’s obituary, and for his photograph. LH
Two Generations of Soldiers
by John Stammers Alabaster (I)
There have been few military people in my branch of the family, but two of them, father and son, were soldiers in the Zulu War and World War I respectively. The following account of their service may help to show why they have earned our admiration and respect.
Edwin Alabaster, “Uncle Ted”
Edwin was my great uncle – elder brother of my grandfather. As a teenager he worked (my brother believes) for his uncle, one of the Rickards who became a broker in the stockmarket. There are many family stories about him, such as the occasion when Rickard’s business interests took him abroad and, on hearing that he was off to Paris, Edwin and some of the other lads decided that the time was ripe for a jaunt to the races at Epsom. To their horror, however, who should they bump into, but – the Boss! For Edwin, the thought, then, of having to face his father was too much and so he joined the army! Or so the story goes. But what is certain is that when he enlisted in London, on 26th February, 1877, joining the 24th Regiment at its base in Brecon on 6th March, he was described as a carpenter, and his former trade, as cordwainer. His military career is fairly well documented (2a) and we know that, when he joined, he was eighteen years and three months old, 6ft 7 ½ins in height, and of fair complexion with hazel eyes and brown hair.
This was an inauspicious start for the eldest son of the family who would normally have been expected to take the brunt of supporting his siblings and parents. The army was a tough discipline for him. The pay was only a shilling a day, half of which would be docked for luxuries such as extra rations and laundry! A pension would come only after twenty-one years’ service, which was not without its dangers to life and limb. And a soldier caught napping on duty could still be severely flogged. Even opting for the new short-term service would entail three years with the colours and then transfer to the army reserve for another five (3).
In the following February the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment received orders to move from Chatham to Plymouth, to embark onto the troop-ship H.M.S. Himalaya and sail to South Africa to join the 1st Battalion for active service in the 9th Frontier War at the Cape (3).
The Situation in South Africa
The Cape was strategically very important to Britain, providing a naval base and a coaling station, and guarding a route to India and the Far East that still carried two-thirds of the trade from Britain, even after the opening of the Suez Canal. Moreover, diamonds had been discovered there in 1867, and that area had also been annexed by Britain! However, ever since the Cape had been taken from the Dutch in 1803, it had been a centre for their intermittent rebellion. With the abolition of slavery by Britain in 1834, many Boers, who objected to this curtailment of what they saw as their rights, left the Colony and trekked across the Orange and Vaal Rivers and founded the Orange Free State, Natal and the Transvaal. (Fig. 1)
Fig.1 (left). South-east Africa showing the Transvaal north of the River Vaal, the Orange Free State bounded by the Rivers Vaal and the Orange, north and south, and other territories. In Natal: G = Greystone; P = Pietermarizburg.
But Natal was then taken over by the British in 1842, the other two territories being guaranteed their independence. Yet financial and political difficulties within the Transvaal led to its bloodless annexation by Britain in April, 1877. This was part of a British plan for a federation of the Cape Colony and Natal with the Transvaal and the Orange Free State; and one of the factors that helped to persuade the Transvaal parliament to agree to this was the false claim that there was a Zulu threat of invasion and an assurance that the British could deal with it. Actually, as the British well knew, Cetshwayo, the Zulu King, welcomed the annexation of the Transvaal as he thought it would protect him from the Boers! What the troops were told about their mission we can only guess. (4)
The month-long voyage to Cape Town in cramped conditions must have been wearisome, but even so, immediately on arrival, the troops were transported to King William’s Town (Fig.1) in the north-east Cape to get their first taste of action. By June, 1878, they had dealt ruthlessly with the disturbances there, substituting a military campaign for the crude violence of the colonials – cattle-rustling, burning kraals and shooting the native ‘kaffirs’. Soon the Transkei was also annexed. The Zulus were the next target. A spurious claim by the Boers to borderland on the Blood River between the Transvaal and Zululand failed to provide the British with an excuse for war, so instead, an unacceptable 30-day ultimatum of demands was delivered to Cetshwayo on 11 December, 1878 which, if not complied with would lead to invasion.
The Zulu War (3)
So it was that a coastal mail-steamer had already taken the troops to Natal, and they went on to Pietermaritzberg (Figs. 1 & 2) to prepare for what was really a contrived war.
Fig. 2 (right). Route taken by 24th Regiment in December 1878
The 24th Regiment was to cross into Zululand at Rorke’s Drift some 125 miles away. The transport consisted of Cape wagons that were 18 ft long and were awkward and heavy to handle when loaded and needed at least eighteen oxen to keep them moving over ground that could be either rough or boggy. The regimental band played the tune of ‘Warwickshire Lads’ as they reached Greytown. Here one company of the 2nd Battalion was left to garrison the town whilst the remainder went on, arriving on 9th January (two days before the deadline for a reply from Cetshwayo) at the Buffalo River, near the junction of its tributary, Blood River, in plenty of time to make a raft and pontoon for the main column to effect a crossing early on the 11th. But conditions were difficult, and it was not until 18th January that Lt-General Lord Chelmsford took the 1st and 2nd Battalions into Zululand for a campaign that proved to be something of a disaster.
When he reached Isandhlwana on 20th January, he made no effort to fortify the camp. Before dawn on 22nd, there were reports of enemy movements from a scouting party, so Chelmsford decided to go after them immediately taking six companies of the 2nd Battalion of the 24th, and leaving behind only one (Pope’s company ‘G’) of the 2nd/24th and five companies of the 1st/24th 5, but at the same time calling for reserves from Rorke’s drift – though these were only Colonel Durnford’s rocket battery and a corps of 300 mounted natives, albeit well-trained. Unfortunately he left no clear orders as to who was to be in command in his absence! And, still no effort was made to fortify the camp!
Durnford (the senior officer) decided to go to help Chelmsford, leaving Colonel Pulleine in command at the camp. Then the tragedy happened. Whereas Chelmsford came across only a small number of Zulus (eighty), twenty thousand had been waiting, concealed below the rim of the plateau near Isandlhwana, some behind the awesome hill itself (Fig 3) and they now attacked the much reduced British force at the camp.
Fig.3 (left). Isandhlwana from the south, as it is today
At 8.05 a.m. Pulleine called for help from Chelmsford, but was sent only a weak battalion of Natal natives under Commander Browne. Browne returned with the message, “For God’s sake, come back. The camp is surrounded”. Chelmsford still discounted the danger, even though the size of the Zulu force was confirmed by prisoners. The camp was overwhelmed and, in all, only five imperial officers survived and only 30 white men escaped out of 800.
Chelmsford returned to the scene of carnage, now being looted by the Zulus, and spent an uncomfortable night on a stony hill nearby, returning to Rorke’s Drift the next morning with the six companies of the 2nd/24th. There they found that the garrison had managed to defend itself against some 10,000 Zulus, showing enormous bravery and endurance which earned no fewer than eleven Victoria crosses, a number of accelerated promotions and the respect and admiration of the Zulus, as well as of the nation at home.
What role Edwin played in all this is not certain. Records show that he fought in the South African campaign, gaining the South African medal (Fig. 4) and clasp (2a) and serving in the Zulu War in Natal.
Fig. 4(right). South Africa Medal
According to family tradition (6), he was involved in the defence of Rorke’s Drift, where he was severely wounded by Zulu spears and, keeping motionless on the ground while the Zulu warriors went around finishing off anyone who moved, was left for dead.
However, he is not listed among the survivors of the defence of Rorke’s Drift (7). This casts doubt upon the story, especially as accounts of The Defence do not include soldiers being speared on the ground, though records at that time were not necessarily all that accurate (8). Nevertheless, his service record (2) shows that he was certainly in the 24th Regiment, and we also know from his medical record (2a) that he suffered from abscesses and eventually left the service with scars in his neck, chest and armpit, the places where he was said to have been speared. It seems more likely, therefore, that he was present at the defeat of Isandhlwana rather than at the defence of the drift. The family could simply have asked him whether he had been at Rorke’s Drift and, having the fact affirmed, had assumed that it had been when the post was defended rather than when he passed through immediately before and after that event. In any case there would have been far more kudos attached to the The Defence than to the The Defeat and so, perhaps his precise role was not inquired into too closely.
His wounds gave him a great deal of trouble, not healing and having to be drained periodically, but on his return home a wise old woman cured them with dressings of teased-out rope, treated with Stockholm tar – quite a drastic remedy! My auntie May said that his face was also scarred on the left side. It is somewhat ironical to note that after two years active service, the last very close to the action, he received Good Conduct Pay!
It should be added that the troubles in South Africa were far from over. The year 1899 saw the beginning of the Boer War, the sieges of Ladysmith and other towns and, in the following year came the surrender of Bloemfontein, the Relief of Mafeking, Robert’s entry into Pretoria and the second annexation of the Transvaal. And not until 1902 did the Peace of Vereenining finally bring the strife to some sort of termination. But there was little or no accommodation between the whites and blacks until the recent ending of apartheid at the close of the last century.
A Spell in India
South Africa was not the only scene of Edwin’s troubles. He was sick-listed in Gibraltar in February, 18802a, and then, as my brother relates (6):“in answer to a plea from Lord Roberts for volunteers to deal with some trouble in India, and having recovered from his spear wounds, he volunteered to go there with him”spending two years abroad (2a), so missing the Boer rising in the Transvaal in 1881. My brother continues:“the British infantry faced a native charge of racing camels. From what I have been told, the British first brought down the camel and then dealt with the man…….. After the battle in India, Edwin contracted malaria and was in a bad way” (6)
He was certainly ill in Poona, West India on 2nd September, 1880, and then again in Secunderabad, Central India on 17th, this time with dysentery and abscesses (2a)
“He heard that a ship was in port sailing for home and asked that he might go. He was told he could, if he could make it to the ship” (6)
He was ill again on 11th April, 1882, at Wellington – presumably in the Cape of Good Hope, on route home – again with abscesses2a. When he docked at Tilbury, his brother had had word of his home coming and was there to meet him but, at first, was hardly able to recognise him.6 His unhealed abscesses had to be drained, and he was finally discharged at Netley, Southampton on 29th May, 1883; he was reported to be of good character but medically unfit, his constitution having been ‘impaired by exposure on active service in South Africa’. When discharged he was still in the 2nd Battalion of the South Wales Borderers (2a) & (2b). At some time after this he became a carpenter and joiner.
My father, looking back, said
“I recall the South African War very vividly and, as a small boy, seeing the company of volunteers, a cyclist corps, dressed in pale grey uniforms with white spats, departing from Swansea in a heavy thunderstorm, all wet through but eager for departure. Many of them, whose families were well known to me, never returned because casualties were very high. I also recall the passage through the town of the military funerals of young men invalided home to die of wounds or illness, and the soldiers marching back from the cemetery to the playing of “The girl I left behind me” or “Goodbye Dolly I must leave you” – a sad and sorry occasion.”
No doubt these memories were reinforced by family talk about Uncle Edwin’s personal involvement a decade earlier.
Edwin was a very kindly man and most thoughtful of others. Yet he was destined to suffer the anguish of seeing his eldest son, Edmund, confined to a mental home. He lost his first wife, Constance and also his daughter when she was only 12, to Diptheria (1). Even his son, William, who was only 15 at the time of his sister’s death, having been born in 1890, was later to enlist in World War I and to perish in that carnage.
On 26th February, 1915, Edwin enlisted again, joining the 6th Battalion of the Essex Regiment, hoping to be near his son on active service, but he was transferred to the Royal Defence Corps in April, 1916 and was discharged again, “no longer medically fit for service” (2b). Aunty May described how she once saw him, a sad figure, on guard duty on a bridge near Bow, close to the cemetery where his wife, Constance was buried.
William of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF)
Edwin’s son, William, was much loved by all the family. A portrait of him in uniform had a prominent place in my grandparents’ dining room in Swansea. He had emigrated to Australia in 1911, at the age of 21 (14), accompanied, to his surprise, by his Uncle Jack, the youngest of my grandfather’s brothers and only some eight years older than William. Uncle Jack had got on board the sailing ship, a passenger-carrying freighter, to see William off and, on the spur of the moment, decided to go with him! (9)
A few words on my great-uncle Jack (9)
It will not surprise the reader to know that Jack was a live wire and full of initiative and energy. I recall his occasional visits to Swansea in my early teens when he would burst into the room, full of talk and laughter, taking everyone by storm and leaving us all breathless and open-eyed!
Little wonder that working his six-week passage was not a problem to him. Moreover, he set up a Masonic teaching Lodge on board and also established a tailor’s valet service, scrounging blankets and sheets to do the pressing, and training up the stewards at the same time. There were tales of getting into scrapes in Port Said and having to make off with a donkey and cart to escape a belligerent Arab mob. After docking in Sydney, he worked in several clothing stores in Melbourne, intending to bring out his family to join him once well established. A fortune-teller had once predicted that he would live in Australia, but that a message in the night would prevent him from ever settling there; then came the telegram in the night saying that his wife and son had Tuberculosis, the killer disease of the time. So he returned, working his passage once more (9).
William’s early career
We know something of William’s early life; he had been born in Old Ford, Essex in 189011, had attended Essex Road School (14), and had been apprenticed to his father for four years as a carpenter and joiner (11); he had emigrated to Australia at 21 and had enlisted three years later on 27th October, 1914 in the 13th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).
Fig. 5. "Rising Sun" Insignia
by Laraine Hake
I was recently told about a collector of postcards who indexes them, not under the name of the place portrayed but on the name of the addressee. I accordingly wrote to him to ask about the name Alabaster, and found he had no fewer than three! Naturally I bought all of them! Here are the results.
The first postcard is postmarked 4.45 p.m. July 27, 1904, Wallington, Surrey. It is addressed toMiss E. Alabaster, W. Thomas Esq., Brent House, Brentwood, Essex. The card itself is a photograph of Beddington Church. The message reads,“My address is until Aug 3rd c/o Mrs Coote, Goodwood House, Bognor, Sussex. Let me hear from you, Auntie."
Perhaps not surprisingly, I cannot place who Miss E. Alabaster might have been. Any ideas?
The second card is, by far, the most exciting! It is postmarked 3.15 p.m. Oct 19, 1904, London. It is addressed toLady Alabaster, Dil Aram, Sea Road, Boscombe, Hants.
The card is a picture of “London, River Thames showing Houses of Parliament & St Thomas’ Hospital”. The message reads,“arrived safely. I join the circuit at Winchester on Nov 23rd. Will send photos in a few days. Grenville”
This one I can place, absolutely! “Grenville” was Chaloner Grenville Alabaster, third son of Sir Chaloner Alabaster and Laura Abbie nee MacGowan. Their second son was Rupert Cecil who was to die, so sadly, in Tasmania in 1911 (Chronicle 15) and page 11 of this issue. I was interested to know to what “the circuit” referred, and checked the information that I have on file. There it says “1904, called to the Inner Bar” which answered my question. It would appear that Chaloner Grenville was about to begin his time as a barrister or similar.
Chaloner Grenville Alabaster went on to become Attorney-General of Hong Kong from 1931-1946.
The third postcard is postmarked 14 June 1928, Beddgelert, Wales. It is addressed to Miss Alabaster, Lysways, Bransgore, Hants. The card is a photograph of Gelerts Grave at Beddgelert. The message is difficult to decipher, but gives details of places visited on a “very good interesting tour – good motor coach”
The writer has signed merely initials, but I am fairly sure that the Miss Alabaster to whom it is addressed was actually Evelyn Alabaster, younger sister of Grenville. It is likely that these two cards came from the same source, as might the one to Brentwood, although it is less likely.
Bryan Alabaster of “Arlington”
by Laraine Hake
Every member of the Alabaster Society is descended from John Alabaster, who was baptised in Hadleigh on 20th September 1624, and his wife, Elizabeth, with the single exception of Lin Love. John Alabaster was the great grandson of Thomas of Hadleigh. (Lin is descended from Roger, brother of Thomas.)
Thanks to two Wills of 1708, we have long had a picture of the children of John and Elizabeth.
1708 Will of Jane Alabaster:
29/10/1708 Will of Benjamin Bryan:
Branches I, II and III are descended from John’s son William “of Claydon” whilst Branch IV is descended from John “late of Ipswich”.
For years Bryan Alabaster of “Allington” or “Arlington” has been something of a mystery. We have long had a note of his marriage, which took place at St Mary le Tower, Ipswich, on 6th October 1694, to Rebecca Godbold. We even had the details of the baptisms of three daughters born to Bryant(sic) and Rebecca Alabaster : Rose baptised 1711, Sarah baptised 1713, and Abigail baptised 1716, each in Baylham, Suffolk.
But what happened in between 1694 and 1711? Where was Allington\Arlington? The nearest Allington to Suffolk is in Lincolnshire. Was this the place? Could it have been a poor transcription of Assington, a parish close to Hadleigh where at least one Alabaster had lived in the previous century? I did study the Assington records, just in case and during the late 1980s, I even attended a genealogical weekend held at Allington Castle in Kent……just in case, but to no avail.
But there had to be more to it…….in 1998, I was told about two burial records that had been found in Stutton, a parish in south-west Suffolk: a Bryant Alabaster, aged 78, was buried in 1818 and a Dorothy Alabaster, aged 84, were buried there in 1821. From his age at death, this Bryant appears to have been born in 1740, but surely there was a connection with the mysterious “Bryan of Allington”. Just a couple of months later, I was told of a marriage between a Briant Alabaster and Dorothy Bacon in Stutton 13th October 1798………!
Then……in mid-1999 I received a letter from Raymond Green. Those who attended the Sunday tour after the first Alabaster Gathering in 1990 might remember Raymond as the gentleman who met us in Saxmundham Church. Since then, he has been a good friend to the Alabasters, looking for our name whenever he carries on his own research and notifying me of any finds. On this occasion, in 1999, Raymond wrote to say that he had found some baptisms of children born to a Bryant Alabaster and his wife Rebecca between 1697 and 1707 in the parish of Erwarton, Suffolk.
I made use of the next opportunity that I had to visit Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich, to look at the original records for myself. (I note now that the date was 11th August 1999. I have written “just after the total eclipse!”) One of the first things I noticed on accessing the records of the parish of Erwarton was the note……”Erwarton, pronounced Arwarton”…….
(Arwarton……could this be “Arlington”)
There I found a whole family born to Bryant and Rebecca:Martha (1697), Bryant (1698), James (1700), Abigail (bapt and buried 1703), Lydia (1704), Thomas (1706), Samuel (bapt 1707, buried 1709), Mary (1709).
In amongst the registers I found many references to Godbolds, Rebecca’s maiden name, which makes me believe that this Erwarton was probably her home parish, and provides the rationale for Bryan’s move to the south of the county. In fact, the Godbold family were clearly significant members of the parish, holding various offices, including Overseers of the Poor.
I studied the Parish Book of Erwarton and found “Officers chosen for ye coming year 1696…..” a list of names, including Bryant Alabaster – Overseer.
Bryant was actually an Overseer in the years 1696, 1697, 1703 and 1708. In 1697, the other Overseer was Tho. Godbold.
There remains work to be done on this pocket of Alabasters, but I am convinced that Erwarton is the Arlington\Allington I sought for so long! The dates also tie in well with Bryan and Rebecca reappearing in Baylham in 1709. Other anomalies may also be explained; the family of a James Alabaster in Harwich, just across the river from Erwarton into Essex, in the 1760s, could well be descended from James, born 1700, or one of his brothers. Certainly Briant, buried 1818, fits in here.
It gives me hope that other Alabaster mysteries may one day be solved!