Picture by Rupert Fox from a design by Michael William Alabaster

 

The Alabaster Chronicle 

The Journal of the Alabaster Society 

 
NUMBER EIGHTEEN, SPRING 2002 

Contents


Editorial

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!

To Contents
 


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

Thomas

Alabaster

Head 37

Colonial Sampler

Born Bethnal Green

Cordelia V

Alabaster

Wife  36

 

St Georges East

Emily A.

Alabaster

Daug 16

Mantle maker

Bethnal Green

George I.

Alabaster

Son    14

Builders' assistant

Bethnal Green

Adeline B.

Alabaster

Daug 10

Scholar

Bethnal Green

Florence G.

Alabaster

Daug   6

Scholar

Surrey Bermondsey

Sidney H.

Alabaster

Son      5

 

London, Southwark

Horace E.

Alabaster

Son      3

 

Essex, Leyton

Baby

Alabaster

Son 2 wks

 

Essex Leyton


The 1891 census shows Sidney H. Alabaster, aged 5, with the rest of the family, including my grandmother. (Sadly "Baby Alabaster", then aged 2 weeks, was to be killed in France on 5th April 1918, serving with 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, aged 27).

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."

S.H.Alabaster sign, Welling, Kent
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:

Hello,
My son Tom, now at Bristol University and doing his finals, came across your web site yesterday and emailed me today.
My name is Jim Alabaster, I am the son of Sidney Herbert Alabaster who originally came from the East End of London and was a Cockney. My Mother was Scottish and I had a brother Robin whom I have not heard of for a long time, since I worked overseas.
I have met other Alabasters: there seem to be a number in Australia as you say (on the website).
I'm interested to hear from you.
Regards,
Jim Alabaster

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:
"Just a passing thought, what has happened to Grace? She had a husband named George??? If I remember correctly -------gosh I am going back a few years -and two or was it three children, Stella was one I remember, was it Tony and another boy ?? Geoffrey???

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)
Tony Moore
My grandfather was Sidney Herbert Alabaster with my grandmother`s maiden name Lewis. My mother was Florence Grace Dorothy Alabaster who married my father George Ernest Moore.

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:
"One of the office at 98 Church Rd, Bexleyheath and one of mum's brother Bert."

S. H. Alabaster Ltd., Building Contractors, 98 Church Road, Bexleyheath
S.H. Alabaster Ltd., Building Contractors
98 Church Rd, Bexleyheath

Here we have yet more evidence of the life of Sidney Herbert, my father's Uncle Sid! Could this have been his car?

Herbert Sidney Alabaster, 1908-1956Tony's "mum's brother, Bert" was actually Herbert Sidney Alabaster, son of Sidney Herbert and father of Tricia Dyer. I was to hear about him, from a completely different source, later in 2001. See Laraine's Letter (News) Pages, page 22. 

 

Left: Herbert Sidney Alabaster (1908-1956)

 

 

Tricia's niece, Samantha, daughter of Tricia's brother, Sydney Herbert, kindly agreed to share her "memories" of her great grandfather with us.

To Contents


Seen Through the Eyes of a Child

by Samantha Armstrong, nee Alabaster

I think I may only have been six years old at the time (about 1975). My father, Sydney H. Alabaster, sadly now deceased, would regularly allow me to accompany him to work on Saturday mornings. Sidney Herbert Alabaster 1886-1966

On the morning in question, he was to visit (yet again) the old offices S.H. Alabaster & Sons Building Contractors, Welling, Kent, currently being used by a firm of Chartered Accountants, I believe. The offices were closed that morning and my father had been asked to quote for the doors throughout the offices. Curiously enough, overnight, all doors had been taken off their hinges.  

I would often take schoolbooks along with me, to keep me busy while awaiting the return of my father. We were parked outside the premises and I remember a feeling of being watched. I looked up to the top floor windows where Dad had explained he would be. A strikingly handsome man stood staring at me from one of those windows. I remember no expression but piercing blue eyes and unusually winged collars to his shirt. When my father returned I questioned him about the gentleman I had seen. He informed me the offices were empty of all employees and closed for the day. Elaborating further, I described the gentleman to him. We both looked back up to the empty windows and my father hastily drove away.

 
Sidney Herbert Alabaster (1886-1966)
 

It was not until many, many years later, that I came across a large black and white photograph of this same man in my parents' loft. I recognised him but was unable to recall where or when I had met him. My father jogged my memory for me by recalling the day he believed I had seen my Great Grandfather, Sidney H. Alabaster. Odd incidents were reported about the said offices. My memory is a little hazy on the details. However, on one occasion, all fuses had been removed from every plug within the premises, overnight. The other was when overnight all the centres had been removed from a box of chocolates previously opened and half consumed the day before. I remember my father saying his Grandfather was a man with a wicked sense of humour!

To Contents


News from Around the World

Murray Williamson, Australia 1st October 2001
I was most interested to stumble on the Alabaster Society website. My wife's (nee Judith Ann Rodd) gt gt grandmother, Ann Alabaster, married James Rod in Rayleigh, Essex 1824. I was excited to see their names in Branch I, along with those of their children. I knew nothing of Ann Alabaster or her forebears, and was always puzzled by the name Fox which was sported by several of the children. There is a tombstone listing the parents and children who stayed in England in Rayleigh.
Three of the boys came to Australia - James Fox Rodd who became a member of the New South Wales Parliament, George Palmer Rodd, my wife's gt grandfather; and Ephraim Rodd, who married in Illinios The three brothers at one stage had a general store at Braidwood, a gold rush town in New South Wales, before losing their money in a gold mining venture in Hill End NSW. A sister, Mary Fox Rodd, came out to visit in the 1860s but fell in love with the ship's captain, Frederick Denhame Gibson. They married in Goulburn NSW before going on to New Zealand, where he became the harbour master at Lyttleton on the South Island. Two of her daughters are mentioned in the NZ Dictionary of Biography for their role in girls' education.
This is the original email I received from Murray Williamson. For the full story, read his article on page 25 (below).

Beryl Cathro, Australia (I) 15th October 2001
I met Murray last Friday & more importantly, his wife Judy who is the Alabaster. They are a very nice couple. I lent Murray my back issues of the Chronicle and "A Quintet of Alabasters".
Beryl is descended from the same Alabaster family in Rayleigh as Judith - their gt gt grandmothers were sisters. What's more, Beryl lives in the same part of Australia - it was only natural to put them in touch with each other. I continue to be amazed how things can be made to happen on the other side of the world! LH

Erica Alabaster, Wales (IIB) 20th October 2001
Clive's article certainly strikes a chord. (Chronicle No. 17) My maiden name of Finch was not subject to so many permutations and becoming an Alabaster took some getting used to. Most people at my workplace manage to get it right but a steady core persist in referring to me as Alibaster or Alibasta. When the subject of my surname arises, I am often asked where my husband comes from "originally" and there is a sense that some people assume that both it and he are South Asian. The name has even more international connotations. Iraqis and Iranians, with whom I shared accommodation while at university, concluded from reading a list of residents that my husband was from a Middle Eastern country. Recently one of my students, an Israeli citizen with Arabic roots, said that he had thought I must be married to an Arab because the prefix Al is used frequently by members of his ethnic group, being indicative of status. Thanks to your work, and that of other members of the Alabaster Society, I now have much to say in reply about our family name and global links past and present.

John Lee, husband of Christine Lee, nee Alabaster (1946-2001) (IIA)
Terribly sad news, I'm afraid: Chris died just after 6 PM yesterday, October 25th. She didn't suffer at the end. She had all her family with her and was able to understand our farewells and thanks.
She was a very special person. We'll probably have a small private funeral.

7th November 2001
I received a telephone call from William Henry Elliott Alabaster (I), to say his wife Georgine died on 26th September 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
Just a quick note to tell you that our daughter Faye gave birth to a daughter (Ania Myer - 6lb 7oz) at 6am on the 29th November 2001.

Stephen Alabaster, Birmingham (IIA) 6th December 2001
Lizzie's (Stephen's daughter) headmistress, Miss Insch, has just sent me details of the activities of 320 Company the Pioneers…..Her father was a member and she is particularly interested in the time of his landing in Normandy in June '44. She has noted however that one Major H S Alabaster took over command of the company in Kamen, Germany, on 26th November 1945 until shortly before its disbandment in 1946, and she wonders what relation, if any, he is to us……….
I replied that I thought it possible that Major H. S. Alabaster could be Herbert Sidney Alabaster, father of Tricia Dyer (see article page 6) I suggested Stephen contact her direct.

Dear Mrs Dyer,
Laraine Hake has suggested I contact you to find out about Major H S Dyer of 320 Company of the Pioneer Corps and whom she believes to have been your father Herbert Sidney Alabaster (and if so, becomes, according to Laraine who understands these things, my fourth cousin once removed!!)
I am a hopeless historian, and not very well versed in genealogy either, but we Alabasters are blessed with a name which sticks out like a sore thumb, and when my daughter Elizabeth's headmistress, Miss Elspeth Insch, at King Edward VI Handsworth School here in Birmingham, spotted the name in her father's war record, I was contacted to find out more and I, of course, immediately went to the fount of all knowledge, Laraine.
Mr Insch, I don't know what rank he had, if any, served in the Pioneer Corps and landed in Normandy with them in June 1944. The full record shows the 320 Company being formed in Denbigh on 10th August 1942 and being disbanded in Germany on 30th June 1946. Major Alabaster took over command on 26th November 1945, when the company was in Kamen in Germany and was released at Frondenberg on 7th June 1946, so shortly before the disbandment of the company.
I am not sure what information Miss Insch would like to have but if this is your father and you have any information either on him or on the corps/company that you feel may be of interest, I would be grateful to receive it and would be interested to read it myself as well as to pass it on. I don't think Elizabeth will immediately become Head Girl as a result! But she is herself studying A-Level History and will be interested too. Laraine has made me promise to pass on to her anything I learn, needless to say.
I have been at a couple of the Alabaster Gatherings and hope to go to the next one in April. I hope too that my wife will be able to attend one for the first time with me though she has known for 25 years that the Alabaster family is a strange one to have married into and maybe doesn't want to know any more!!
I hope you don't mind me delving into your past, and hope to hear from you shortly. All good wishes meantime,
Yours sincerely,
Stephen Alabaster

Stephen Alabaster (IIA) 11th December 2001
I've been in contact with Tricia Dyer and received this reply:
I was very pleased and surprised to hear from you regarding (yes, he was) my Father. It seems to me that you have told me more than I already knew. I was six when the war began, and when it ended I don't seem to remember Dad talking about it. He was busy working up his business again as a Building Contractor. Started up with a motorbike and sidecar with two of his old mates. I used to call them Dick Barton, Special Agent!! I'm showing my age! Sadly, he had just got on his feet and bought a new car, when he became ill and died at the age of 48. Anyway, back to Major H.S. Alabaster (acting Lt. Col. when the war ended). I knew letters went to BAOR and that he was Mentioned in Dispatches. London Gazette, 10th May, l945 - Mentioned in Dispatch for distinguished service. I was always very proud of him. He started his training in the Commandos and then went over to Pioneers, building being his specialist subject.
That is about all I can tell you. I would be very interested if Miss Insch could let me have any of the details she has. The name Insch sounds familiar. Did he ever attend a training session at (I think) Dryholme Camp? Dad had a photo album but that disappeared.
I had two brothers, but the eldest died 3 years ago, at the age of 62. My other brother is Colin. We both attended the last Gathering, our first, and hope to be at the next one.

Linton Love, Canada (Roger) 2nd February 2002
Hi Laraine, I hope all is well with you and imagine you will be looking forward to spring. I got myself involved in designing a Home Page for Internet…. I had always resisted setting up a Home Page as I thought it was silly to have a Home Page unless it was for a specific purpose. It seemed to me that for a lot of the people who rushed in, it was more an ego trip.
However not too long ago Rootsweb, who as you know are one of the big genealogy resource sites on Internet, offered to host genealogy Home Pages. Plus it was FREE. In this way I could share my research information with anybody following along the same trail.
So some night when you have all your schoolwork prepared for the next day, and all your Alabaster work completed, and have nothing better to do, you can go on Internet and see the results of my efforts.

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~linlove

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.
So there you have it Laraine and I hope the Hadleigh Smith portions will be of interest.
It's a great web site - well worth a look! LH

To Contents


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).

Family connectionsMap of New Zealand showing places connected with Capt. Daniel Alabaster

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.

Shipwreck

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).

Married life

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.

Other Adventures

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).

Daniel Alabaster, Sail Maker, advertisement

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.

Acknowledgements

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.

    References
  1. Robin Alabaster (1994) To and from Alabaster Hut - Part One. Alabaster Chronicle, No. 2, Spring/Summer, pp. 13-15 (with maps).
  2. Robin Alabaster (1994) – To and from Alabaster Hut - Part Two. Alabaster Chronicle, No. 3, Autumn/Winter, pp. 16-19 (with photographs).
  3. Adrian Alabaster (1999) A Quintet of Alabasters, Able Publishing, Knebworth, Herts., U.K. 259 pp.
  4. Extracts from documents in the Otago Early Settlers Museum (via Helen E. L. Spooner)
    1. Otago Early Settlers Association Genealogical Correspondence Index.
    2. St. Pauls Anglican Church, Dunedin, Baptismal Register of Marianne Alabaster.
    3. Otago Colonist, 28 June, 1861 (Passenger list of Storm Cloud).
    4. Electoral Roll, Dunedin, August, 1869.
    5. Harnetts, Wises & Stones Directories.
    6. Wises Post Office Directories.
    7. Otago Early Settlers Association Cutting Book No. 5, p.124 (‘Star’, Wellington, 12 August, 1920).
    8. Register of all New Zealand Shipping, 1840-1950, inclusive.
    9. Ingram’s New Zealand Shipwrecks.
    10. Alice McKensie, ‘Pioneers of Martins Bay’ pp. 1-3 & 110-111.
  5. Extract of Kessingland Parish Register (via Adrian Alabaster).
  6. Letters & family tree from John Hammond Alabaster, Laguna Beach, California.
  7. Letter and enclosures from Vicki Stuart (great-great-grand-daughter of Captain Alabaster), 30 March, 1990:
    1. Certified copy of Death Registration of Daniel Alabaster, d. 28 July, 1920, Wellington (No. 15963).
    2. Certified copy of Marriage Registration of Daniel Alabaster to Jane Elizabeth Fish, 23 March, 1892, Wananui (No. 37946); Copy of signed Declaration (No. 16) by Daniel Alabaster; Copy of Marriage Certificate (No. 16) re. Marriage, 23 March, 1892.
    3. Copy of letter from J. Mitchell-Anyan of the Wanagui Regional Museum to V. Gillett, 12 May, 1978 relating to items 7a to 7f , and inscribed photographs.
    4. Copy of Trade Advertisement by Daniel Alabaster.
    5. Copy of Certificate and Title of Land Transfer, Vol. 189, No. 207.
    6. Copy of Will of Daniel Alabaster, 29 January, 1918.
    7. Further notes from Vicki Stuart
  8. Pioneers of Martin’s Bay: The Story of New Zealand’s Most Remote Settlement, by Mrs. Peter MacKenzie, Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd., 3rd Edition, 1970 via Val Laing, City of Dunedin Public Library. (See also 4j).
  9. Extract from ‘Fiordland Explored’ via Shirley Alabaster.
  10. The Natural World of the Maori, by Margaret Orbell, photography by Geoff Moon. Collins, Auckland, in association with David Bareman (1985), 230 pp.
  11. High Adventure in the Hollyford, by Julie Thomas. Aorangi Vol. 6 (4): 6-18. 1985, Dow Publishing Ltd., Auckland.
  12. Family tree of Daniel Alabaster via Jocelyn Davies, great-great-grand-daughter of Captain Daniel.
  13. Family lore via Zonnebecke Myrtle Martell, great grand-daughter of Captain Daniel.
To Contents


Another New Zealand Connection

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.

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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
by Laraine Hake

I think it is quite amazing that the Alabaster family and their descendants appear to have had such an effect on the formation of education in Christchurch, New Zealand. I agree with Murray that it is very likely that Mary Fox Rodd was aware that her mother’s maiden name was Alabaster, and think it likely that she may have speculated about a possible connection with Charles and Anne Alabaster. However, I have my doubts that Mary and Charles were aware that their relationship was as close as third cousins.

It appears very likely that Mary’s grandfather, John, and Charles’s grandfather, Charles, would have been aware of each other. They were born in Claydon and Bramford respectively, adjoining parishes in Suffolk, thirteen years apart, and were first cousins. However, by 1800, John was a publican in Rayleigh, Essex and Charles was a straw-hat maker, living in Shoreditch, London, as were his elder brothers, Robert and William (Chronicle No.6). By 1817, Charles had a hat shop in Piccadilly, a prestigious address. Notes left by Charles’s daughter, Mary Ann Rebecca Criddle, nee Alabaster, indicate that her father was not happy to talk about his origins, and he actually burned family papers. Charles in New Zealand had been brought up by this aunt, Mary Ann Rebecca; his own parents and grandparents having all died by the time he was seven years old. Thus the grandchildren of these first cousins, themselves third cousins, are unlikely to have been aware of each other, having been born 50 years after their grandparents probably lost contact.

I wonder! I think it likely that the common surname could have been a reason for speculation, but I doubt if they realised the closeness of the relationship – after all, how many people today know their third cousins – unless they are part of the Alabaster Society, of course!

 
William ALABASTER
b. 1689 Claydon, Suffolk; d. 1768 Baylham, Suffolk
m. 10 Apr 1721
Sarah STEGGELL

William ALABASTER
b. 1726 Claydon, Suffolk;
d. 1768 Baylham, Suffolk
m. 7 Feb 1753
Martha COCKERELL
‹ brothers ›




 
Robert ALABASTER
b.1732 Claydon, Suffolk;
d. 1796 Bramford, Suffolk
m. 26 Nov 1754
Ann MISON
John ALABASTER
b. 1762 Claydon, Suffolk;
d. 1828 Rayleigh, Essex
m. 24 Mar 1792
Ann BURROWS
‹ first cousins ›




 
Charles ALABASTER
b. 1775 Bramford, Suffolk;
d. 22 Feb 1820 London
m.6 Sep 1803
Mary DEARMER
Ann ALABASTER
b. 1800, Rayleigh, Essex;
d, 17 Dec 1879 Chelmsford, Essex 
m. 10 Aug 1824
James RODD
‹ 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
m.
Frederick Denhame GIBSON
b.1831; d. 1915 
‹ third cousins ›




 
Charles ALABASTER
b. 1833 Westminster;
d 18 Jan 1865 New Zealand
m. 29 Sep 1858
Anne O`Conner WARNER
b. 1842 Oxford; d. 1914 New Zealand 
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The Gibson Girls

by Murray Williamson – Branch I

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.

This is the story.

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 inFrederick and Mary Gibson (nee Rodd) 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".

Pictured (right): Frederick and Mary Gibson (nee Rodd)

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.

Ethel, Winifred, Lucy, and Ruth - the GibsonsEthel, Winifred, Lucy and Ruth

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.

Gibson Family Tree, Australia

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.

Murray Williamson
To Contents


Henry Alabaster’s Account of the
Total Eclipse of the Sun, 1868

by Angela Alabaster (IIA)

Amongst the Foreign Office papers in the Public Record Office at Kew, I found an unusual piece of personal reporting by Henry Alabaster, addressed to his superiors in London. Henry, founder of the Savetsila (white stone) family of Thailand, had been in Siam, as Thailand was then called, since 1857 when he had become a Student Interpreter at the Consulate. In 1868 he was Acting Consul during the home leave of the Consul.

King Mongkut (Rama IV) was a distinguished scholar as well as a great King, who began the modernisation of Siam. He had calculated the exact time of the Eclipse of the Sun, due in August 1868. As well as wanting to share scientific interest with foreign guests, he was keen to show his subjects that the eclipse was not, as they believed, due to the Dragon Rahu swallowing the sun, only disgorging it when frightened by drums and fireworks! The King created a jungle palace at the best viewing place, a marshy area to the south.

What follows is a transcript of the report that Henry sent to London.

*******************

THE ECLIPSE of 1868
Henry Alabaster’s account

PRO FO 69 / 46

H.M. the King of Siam having determined to view the Eclipse of August 18 at Whai wan, I was invited (as was also the French consul) to attend as guest of the Government. The King was very anxious that some High British official should be present, and, having learnt from me that Colonel Sir Harry Ord, the Governor of the Straits Settlements would probably accept an invitation to meet His Majesty there, gladly sent an invitation which Sir Harry Ord gladly accepted.

I enclose the original note of His Majesty.

(This can be seen in the Public Record Office, reference FO 69 / 46, with a sketch by Palacia Alabaster).

FO 69 /46 : Letter from the King of Siam

His Majesty left the capital about a fortnight previous to the Eclipse. In the meantime the Prime Minister (the Kalahome) and his lieutenants erected quite a town in the distant jungle to which we were about to resort, and in order that the guests might lack nothing, a French cook with about forty European and Chinese Assistants was sent to organise a kitchen, a steamer was kept running for several weeks conveying stores, and the mail steamer diverted from its course in order to bring luxuries from Singapore.

Fearing that the desertion from the capital by the majority of the officials, the removal of all the gunboats etc, might tempt disorderly Chinese to make a riot, I suggested an increase of police force (my suggestion was adopted), the force doubled and police stationed throughout the part of Bangkok which might be called The Foreign Settlement. Thus under the influence of the Eclipse I was able to obtain without difficulty that which I had been trying for for over a year.

On the 12th instant I left on the finest gunboat in the Siamese navy, the Impregnable , Captain Walrond. The French Consul not being prepared to go on that date did not go at all, though two other vessels were subsequently offered to him. With me were my wife, Mrs Campbell, Messrs. Kennedy and Gould of the Consulate, and two British merchants. A large party of Europeans and Americans including the U.S. Acting Consul were allowed passage on the same vessel.

On arrival on the morning of the 14th, I received a message from the Prime Minister requesting me to remain on board until everyone had landed as the king wished to give me an official reception. I did so, and, on landing was received at the end of the pier by the Second Foreign Minister and other officers and forthwith conducted to the outer gate of the Palace, where the King, surrounded by his family and ministers, cordially welcomed me and proceeded to fire a salute of seven guns with his own hand - an extraordinary honour. His Majesty stood to the guns, watch in hand, and fired with the most perfect precision, saying he would show his Officers how to keep time.

His Majesty then led me across the courtyard of the Palace to a spacious Audience Hall, and, while refreshments were being served, conversed for some time about the Eclipse, showing a knowledge of the subject I was unprepared to expect. After the audience The Prime Minister led me to his house and thence to that erected for me close beside his own.

It is remarkable, and yet consistent with the whole course of Hospitality shown by the Siamese Government on this occasion, that the Siamese Ministers did not provide for themselves the comfortable accommodation provided for their guests. The Prime Minister himself, rather than allow any beyond my own party to take up rooms in my house, gave up room after room in his house until it became a hive of European and American ladies and gentlemen, his reception room became a club room, and he only had a bedroom to himself. When I brought away some of his too numerous guests he fetched them back and it was only after some resistance that he agreed that they should take their meals with us. Knowing His Excellency well, I know what an effort it must have cost him to show such politeness to the Foreign ladies who had uninvited, and unexpected, come down upon him in such numbers. His Excellence’s attentions continued; time after time he called to learn whether anything was desired. Other Siamese officers vied in offering civilities. Such hospitality, such attention, I have never seen anywhere before, never expect to again.

But all the time there were two sources of uneasiness; the first, the weather had been overcast, and though it improved on the 15th there was a general expectation that we should not see that which we had come to see; second, the French were complaining and dissatisfied, and saying the Siamese were so suspicious of them that they would give them no assistance. (This was unfair, the Siamese, if I was not misinformed, wanted to do everything for them, even to feeding them). As an instance of what resulted, I may mention the following. M. Pierre, the botanist of the Expedition, wished to make a journey. "The jealous Siamese" said some "gave him no carts or assistance, believing he came to spy out the land". I asked him whether he had applied for them, he said "No" his chief had determined to take nothing from the Siamese, so had refused to ask for assistance for him. I spoke of it unofficially to a Siamese officer and in a few hours the gentleman was on his way rejoicing with three carts and ten coolies. For this, and some other services I had the fortune to render M. Pierre, I am to have the pleasure of receiving a duplicate set of the plants collected by him (embracing he believes more than 200 new varieties) which I shall forward to the Kew Museum. Also my name, or my present official position is to be attached to a remarkable rush that grows in muddy holes in Siam. I believe it was only the irritating cloudy sky that caused the ill will for as the weather improved it all passed away and the Siamese civilities, sacks of potatoes etc. were freely accepted.

On the 15th, the Emperor Napoleon’s Fete Day, was celebrated – all ships dressed gaily and many salutes were fired. The Chief of the French Expedition and the French Consul had not been able to agree as to their respective positions in regulating the ceremonials of this day – which was one of the reasons that the French Consul remained in Bangkok.

On the 16th the Governor of Singapore arrived in his yacht the Peiko , but , as it was Sunday, he deferred landing until tomorrow. Early on the morning of the 17th HMS Sattelite, Capt. Edye, arrived and their suites landed under a salute of seventeen guns from the shore battery and were at once conducted to the Prime Minister’s where HRH the Foreign Minister also awaited them. In the meantime the King conceived that it would be well to establish a second observatory some miles distant and himself started off to select the spot. We waited nearly three hours until His Majesty returned and invited our attendance.

Colonel Ord was received with as much ceremony as the situation admitted of. A line of soldiers presented arms on his approach and the King awaited him seated on a temporary throne with about two hundred princes and officers in brilliant silk and gold jackets kneeling round him. I presented His Excellency, Capt. Edye and their officers and the King then introduced them to the chief Princes and Nobles. The conversation was limited to formal civilities and expressions of satisfaction the visit gave His Majesty.

As soon as the ceremony was over the King willingly submitted to have some photographs taken of himself surrounded by his guests. This ended, Col.Ord was conducted to the residence built for him, and a very excellent tiffin served up. Col. Ord’s house was next in size to the King’s Palace, and I think the supply of provisions, wines etc. was not inferior to any I have seen or heard of on Colonial Governor’s tables.

In the evening Col.Ord and Lady Ord and Capt.Edye, I and my wife etc., in all a party of 8, were entertained in the interior of the Palace and introduced to His Majesty’s children and nine of the favourite ladies of the Palace and next morning the unprecedented intimacy allowed us with the Royal Family so increased that they threw off all customary reserve and, while the King and several of His Majesty’s wives were conversing with Col. and Lady Ord in one room, in the adjoining Audience Hall I and other gentlemen were talking for full ¾ hour with Princes and Princesses, several of the latter young ladies of 15 to 18. The pleasant manners of these young Princesses and the frankness and intelligence of their conversation exceeded my anticipations. They spoke the simplest language but sifted of the rough and course expressions which are so general as to be almost a feature of the Siamese language. To those with me who could not speak Siamese they spoke a few words of English. His Majesty, one of the kindest of fathers, heard the buzz of conversation and ringing peels of laughter, accepted it with perfect good humour, smiling, as he said on his return – "What a noise you have been making."

The whole time was, as it were a picnic. For once the Siamese laid down the screen they ever hold at Bangkok between foreigners and themselves, and I hope that their doing so has given them more confidence in Foreigners, as it has given Foreigners a much increased esteem for them.

In the afternoon, the King’s eldest son rode out with a large party of Foreigners, and another party of Foreigners were delighted with an elephant ride.

Then came the eventful day. As soon as day broke a busy crowd might be seen mounting their telescopes in front of their houses; and as the clouds chased across the sky, thickening every hour, the excitement became intense. A gun announced the commencement of the Eclipse, but the earlier stages were imperfectly seen. Suddenly, as the total phase was about to commence, the warm air from the earth seemed to fly up direct towards the sun, though the chilled air above, scattering the clouds over our heads, and the glorious corona and its starlet beads and fountains burst forth with splendid clearness.

A roar of wonder and delight rose from the whole colony. The Prime Minister is said to have rushed into his house and called to his wives "Now will you believe in what foreigners tell you?"

I shall attempt no description of the Eclipse itself. That will be given by the French astronomers, but I may note the effect on myself and those around me. My party all felt subdued and somewhat hysterical; a party of staid missionaries a short way off cheered violently; the Siamese, after their first roar of wonder sat silent, the women half frightened; some native women ran into their houses. The Prime Minister ran about like a young man and was running with me to my observatory when the sun burst forth again. He took me in at once to the King and I sat down with the rest of the Council who had already assembled. Again the screen was dropped. The King and his ministers sat round smiling, talking and even joking, phrases of ceremony were cut down to the shortest – freedom of speech allowed to the utmost.

The King gave a full and clear account of the causes of the Eclipse, shewing how thoroughly he had read up the subject. He finally presented me with a golden coin (a custom of Siam on remarkable occasions) and the interesting meeting broke up.

In the meantime Col. Ord and his party had made observations of the Eclipse but not such as to be of any scientific value beside observations made by practising French astronomers working with the finest instruments.

In the afternoon the King visited Col. Ord at his residence – an act of remarkable condescension. In the evening Col. Ord was entertained with a theatrical representation.

Next morning His Majesty and Guests again underwent the photographic operation and immediately after the Town of the Eclipse melted away like a snow heap in the sun. All the nonofficial visitors had left immediately after the Eclipse. The King left about noon on the 19th, steamers and sailing yachts crowded to excess, hurried off immediately after. The Satillite steamed away to China, the French Frelon having preceded her to Saigon with the news of the great success.

Col. Ord decided to embark in the afternoon and I should have been pleased to have escorted him on board but, unwilling to detain longer The Impregnable which had again been placed at my service, I took my leave of His Excellency and, embarking simultaneously with the Prime Minister we started homeward leaving the dismantled town where I had experienced such vast hospitality, been allowed such extraordinary intimacy and witnessed the grandest of astronomical phenomena.
H B M Consulate   }
BK Aug 24   }
1868   }
Hy Alabaster

 
Postscript

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.

Section of painting by Palacia Alabaster of the scene at the Jungle Palace

To Contents


Cousins Reunited - after 60 years!!

by Steve Abbott (IIIB)

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!

Rosetta Heard nee Ridley, Sue George, Iris Lewis
From left: Rosetta Heard, nee Ridley, Sue George, nee Alabaster, Iris Lewis, nee Ridley

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

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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.

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