Picture by Rupert Fox from a design by Michael William Alabaster

The Alabaster Chronicle

The Journal of the Alabaster Society





by Laraine Hake - March 1994

At last, the second edltion of the Alabaster Chronicle and the first half year of the Alabaster Society! I have been really thrilled by the positive reaction that there has been. At the time of writing this we have 58 full members, that is 58 households: many more if each individual is counted separately.
The 58 include three in Canada, three in Australia, one in U.S.A., and three in New Zealand! I must be honest and admit that the most exciting moment for me, personally, was the letter I received on New Year's Eve from one Tony Springall. He had read of the Alabaster Society in Family Tree Magazine and was writing to tell me that he was descended from Thomas Alabaster and Sarah Letitia Lawrence, married in Bethnal Green, 1853. Thomas and Sarah Letitia were my own gt gt grandparents, and I have never before been contacted by anybody so closely related to me, other than first cousins of whom I was already aware!! Tony is now a member of our Society.
I have been very sad to hear of the deaths of two members of our Alabaster family, both of whom were with us at the first two Gatherings. Jo Maydom told me that her aunt, Winifred Rose Alabaster (IIIA), died June 7th 1993. Jo said, "She so wanted to come with us (to the Gathering in April 1993), but didn't want 'to be a burden'. However, she managed the long drive and busy day very well and was thrilled to bits that she'd been able to make it. We had no idea then how ill she was and the courage and cheerfulness she showed that day were typical - but she always did enjoy a good party and is sadly missed."

George William Alabaster (IIIA) also sadly passed away on 21st October. His son, George David, wrote, "My father was extremely interested in his Alabaster genealogy and the letters, Gatherings, etc made, for him, his ancestors recognisable." Our thoughts and sympathy go to the immediate relations of each of these. I am pleased, however, that both Winifred and George were able to join with us on the happy occasions in 1990 and 1993.
On a different note, I received a telephone call one evening, a couple of weeks ago, from a lady trying to trace a Katherine Alabaster for a reunion of the Guide Company to which they both belonged at Gravesend, Kent, in the 1940s. Although I did not know the lady in question, I was able to establish her probable married name. Within 30 minutes I received a second call to say that she had been found and would be delighted to attend the reunion. I have also heard from a Reg Cox who is trying to trace one Len Alabaster with whom he was friends in the early 1970s until Reg went to live in Rhodesia and they lost touch. Len worked in North Woolwich, probably at Standard Telephone & Cables, and often spoke of a sister in Basildon, Essex. Reg would love to get in touch with Len. Please do let me know if you have any ideas on who this might be.

This week, I received a letter from a lady in New Zealand who was trying to trace her Alabaster ancestors. I will be writing to let her know that she is descended from Daniel Alabaster, after whom Lake Alabaster was named (see page 14, Alabaster Hut, in this issue).

As promised, there will be an informal Alabaster Gathering at Hadleigh, on Saturday September 10th: a booking form is enclosed. It will be a chance to meet and talk, enjoy a buffet lunch and a brief AGM. I do hope many of us will be there. If you have any opinions or thoughts on where and how our Gatherings should be conducted, please do write and tell me.

Thank you to the many members who have contributed towards this magazine and the next. I would be grateful for any articles or snippets of information for future Chronicles sent to me by 31st July, please, so that I can produce the next one in time for 10th September. Please do not be offended if I do not use your contribution immediately: sometimes there will be an element of juggling involved in what is included, and when! However, please do keep sending them in (and writing me letters)! Lastly, on a personal note, I have been persuaded to take over our local Brownie pack, so now I am a Brown Owl (Steve has already made all possible jokes)! If anybody has any contact with any other Brownie units, especially those overseas, I would be very interested to hear about them. Amongst my Brownies is one Roxanne Stanley, granddaughter of Joy Stanley, nee Alabaster (WofW). Roxanne has now become Sixer of the Sprites, Steve is been making dark noises about nepotism in the Brownies, which is ridiculous. Although I must admit, breeding wlll always show: Roxanne does come from a good family.......

Laraine Hake, 14th March 1994.

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Thoughts on a Local Alabaster Gathering 

Norman Alabaster (IIA), October 1993

I remember, at the first Alabaster Gathering, looking round at a sea of faces and not knowing anyone; and looking down the endless rows of names on the various branches of the Alabaster tree. Most important, and most helpful, was Laraine`s willingness to mingle among us with her enthusiasm and charm, making us feel at home. Later came that which always breaks down the barriers of shyness and the English reserve -- food!
We've all come a long way since then: another Gathering, many of us regularly communicating. I had the joy of meeting my second cousin, Beryl, from Australia, at the first Gathering: we now write to each other. I have also sent her a video tape.

Back in the summer, I contacted some Alabasters in the Leigh/Southend area of Essex with a view to having a mini-Alabaster Gathering; perhaps swapping old memories and photos over the good old ice breakers of coffee and eats. Robin even brought a bottle of wine when he and Monica, along with Shirely Rowe and Joan Millican, came to Leigh-on-Sea during September. We have had another meeting since then, at Joan and May's lovely house at Westcliff-on-Sea.

I suppose you could say, "Well, that is not much to write about: having a night out, plus coffee and eats." I do want to say this though, in conclusion. The two evenings were really worthwhile, for we in the local group now know each other so much better. We are from different walks of life, but found we had much to share. I am looking forward to another local meeting early next year.

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Alabaster Brooch

Following a request by one of our Alabaster members, Alabaster & Wilson Ltd (IIA) have designed and produced a Crossbow Brooch for him. As this is very likely to be of interest to other members of the family, I am reproducing the details below:

a) in silver - £39.00
b) in 9ct gold - £72.00
c) in 18ct gold - £118.00
These prices are inclusive of V.A.T. at 17.5%
Readers please note that, for archive purposes, these are the 1994 prices which appeared in the original Chronicle.
Please contact Wendy Alabaster at the above address,  or telephone 0121 236 2356  for the current prices.

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On The Alabaster Trail 1991 - 1993

by Millie Knox, nee Wing (W of W)

I had better start by introducing myself and my husband, George Knox, who is the grandson of Elizabeth Caroline Johnson, nee Alabaster (W of W). Because of our association with Laraine in the world of family history, we were invited to the First Alabaster Gathering in 1990, along with many others of Alabaster name and descent.

We decided that we would very much like to attend and we looked forward to meeting members of the family that we only knew as names on family trees. We duly sent our acceptance to Laraine, but, unfortunately about a month before the proposed visit to Hadleigh, George came out in a rash from head to foot, due to an allergic reaction to tablets he had taken on prescription. I was worried because he was so ill, but as he slowly recovered we were both disappointed that he was not fit in time to drive the many miles to join the assembly, but vowed that we would take a trip to Suffolk as soon as we were able.

We had to wait until the following summer to keep this promise but it was certainly worth the wait. We found bed and breakfast accommodation in Lavenham, which was an excellent base for our travels. We had the programme with us that had been prepared for the Saturday and Sunday of the Gathering, and visited the churches and churchyards in all the parishes with known Alabaster connections.

At Hadleigh Church we were warmly received by the bookstall ladies who remembered the "Gathering" and said what a lovely group of people they were. At the Guildhall, we were invited in to view the Great Hall, and were once again made very welcome.

An elderly gentleman, aged 81, was tidying the grass in Friston churchyard and on being asked where we could find the Alabaster graves, he also remembered the group as he had addressed them in the church in the absence of the minister. One of the oldest graves in Snape churchyard was covered with a heavy clear plastic cover to protect it from the elements. As this was for the grave of George Alabaster (note 1), aged 37 years, who had died on June 7th 1759, it was a kind thought on the part of someone unknown to us. It would appear that he may have been a grave-digger, as a spade, pick-axe, and cross-bones were engraved on his headstone.

We visited Framlingham where William Alabaster (note 2) had been imprisoned in 1601, and George walked around the walls of the castle. I stayed on the ground as I was suffering from a mild attack of sciatica at the time. The curator was most interested when George explained to him why we were visiting the ancient building.

At Saxmundham, a plaque high up on the wall at the front of the church commemorates William Alabaster (3) who died the 17th April 1743, with his wife Hannah, their daughter Hannah, their son William (4), and his wife Mary.

At Kersey, we had a long conversation with a local shopkeeper who knew of the Alabasters' connection with the village in days gone by. She seemed pleased to have a couple of customers who had time to stand and chat, and told us in some length of the problems caused by living in a listed building. Most of the buildings in the village street came in that category and while they looked very attractive to us they caused their owners many headaches. It was a beautiful village, and we both thought it was the loveliest place that we visited that week. It was enhanced by a family of ducklings with their mother wading in the ford.

On visiting Groton we found the Winthrop family tomb with the inscription, "In the adjoining Chancel was buried Adam Winthrop Esq. (5) who died in 1562 age 64, Master of the Clothworkers Company of London, First Lord of this Manor and Patron of this Church after the Reformation, and in the Tomb on which the original inscription is nearly defaced were buried his son Adam Winthrop Esq. (6), who died in 1623 aged 75, also Lord of this Manor, and Anne his wife, parents of Governor John Winthrop of New England. Near this spot were interred others of the same family". Anne was Adam Winthrop's second wife. His first wife. who died in childbirth was Alice Still, the sister of John Still, the husband of Ann Alabaster (9).

George was able to take quite a lot of photographs of his ancestors' memorials and we spent three or four days of our week just absorbing the atmosphere of the places where his forebears had lived, worked and walked all those years before. It was a very emotional time for both of us, as I have been drawn into the family research over the years and have hopefully been of some assistance to Laraine.

We had booked to attend the second Gathering and the Dedication of the Window in Hadleigh Church in April 1993, but were prevented from attending by illness once again. Fortunately George was not so ill on that occasion and was less spotted. If there is a third Alabaster family meeting I do not think we will book that time, but just come along on the day and surprise everyone, including ourselves! George bought himself a camcorder for the second meeting which he was unable to use. so we are hoping to make another trip to Suffolk to capture even better memories of the county. We can, incidentally, also visit my brother in Bury St. Edmunds while in the area.

We are following the Alabaster Trail even to this day, as we visited Wells Cathedral recently and saw the tomb of John Still, Bishop of Bath & Wells from 1593 to 1607. At the time of his marriage to Ann Alabaster,. he was Rector of Hadleigh. We have found a number of members of the Still family in the clergy in this area and there is currently a Rev. Jonathan Still, a minister in North Petherton in Somerset and we wonder if he is descended from Bishop Still, and this research could well be the subject of a later article. Watch this space.

25th September 1993

Part of Branch IV

William ALABASTER (2)
(c. 1690-17 Apr 1743)
m. Sep 1712 Saxmundham
Hannah DAWES
(c. 1691-27 Jan 1754)

Branch IV
William ALABASTER (3)
(c. 1712-13 Jan 1778)
m. 25 Jun 1754
(c. 1712-05 Dec 1782)
(1715-14 Aug 1810)
m. Mar 1735 Ipswich
St Matthew and Snape
(note 1)
(Aug 1721-07 Jun 1759)
m. Sarah
( -16 Jan 1781)

(c. 1724/5-07 Aug 1784)
m.1745 at Iken
Constance BUSH
(c. 1718 Jun 1781)

(Note 1): George was a churchwarden at Snape fron 1754-1759. He was also an overseer (of the poor?) 1750-1759.
The Winthrop Family of Groton, Suffolk
(c.1498 -)
m. 1534 Agnes SHARPE (c.1516 -)

(03 May 1543 - 04 Nov 1614)
m. 29 Apr 1567 Hadleigh
Roger ALABASTER (-1618)
(Note 8)

(Note 2)
(c .1567 - 1640)
m. 22 Aug 1618 Otham, Kent
Katherine FLUDD
Adam WINTHROP (Note 6)
(10 Aug 1548 - 1623)

John WINTHROP (Note 7)


2. William Alabaster, Doctor of Divinity, Author of Roxanne
7. John Winthrop, Governor of New England
8. Roger Alabaster, brother of Thomas Alabaster of Hadleigh Brass of Anne Still
9. Anne Alabaster, daughter of Thomas Alabaster of Hadleigh




The brass of Ann Still (9) nee Alabaster,
daughter of Thomas Alabaster of Hadleigh,
in Hadleigh Church






John Winthrop, First Governor of Massachusetts

The first Governor of Massachusetts came of a Suffolk family long established in the rural parish of Groton. Strong religious convictions made him one of the foremost movers of the great Puritan emigration to New England in 1630. Leaving behind the life of a country squire, magistrate and lawyer, Winthrop dedicated himself to constructing a free commonwealth beyond the sea. He was re-elected for many years as governor of Massachusetts. His energy, statesmanship and administrative genius wcre the stay of the early community, and his gentle moderation tempered its spirit.

Source unknown
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Thomas Alabaster
"the Convict" (continued)

In Alabaster Chronicle Number One, we heard ahout the tree that has been planted in Windsor, New South Wales, by Beryl and Hans Neumann (IIA), in memory of Thomas Alabaster - "the convict". He was sent to Australia having been indicted for, and found guilty of, feloniously breaking and entering a house at St. Martin in the Fields and stealing ten sheets, two shirts, one pair of stockings, one whittle, one scarf, one hat, and one handkerchief, on June 14 1819. I was aware from the IGI (the index produced by the Church of Latter Day Saints to assist their members in the identification of their ancestors so that they [the ancestors] may be baptised and thus saved, but used by genealogists near and far) that a Thomas Alabaster married a Mary Ann Walmsley on 22 January 1815 at St. John the Evangelist, Westminster, and that two children were baptised to a Thomas and Mary Alabaster: Caroline on 12 December 1815 and Sarah on 20 November 1817, the abode at both baptisms being given as the Workhouse. Spurred on by the planting of the tree, I decided to investigate further!

Firstly I studied the marriage entry in the actual register. Unfortunately, I did not learn a great deal from this, other than the information that Thomas was a "bachelor of this parish" and Mary Ann Walmsley was "a minor of the same parish with consent of her natural father, Geo.Walmsley".

I then decided to check whether any records of the Workhouse had survived, with the following results:

St Martin in the Fields - List of Paupers 1795-1824

(No Alabasters prior to 5 Dec 1815)
No of times
Admitted to Workhouse
Discharge Details
5 Dec 1815
Mary Alabaster
Discharged March 21 1816 with her husband
5 Dec 1815
Caroline Alabaster
3 months
13 Dec 1815
Thos Alabaster
Bridewell by Mr Panisford As....upon J..... to M for want of sureties
19 Mar 1816
Thos Alabaster
Permissive Pass to Portsmouth March 21 1816 with his wife and child
4 Jan 1817
Thos Alabaster
April 3 1817
4 Jan 1817
Mary Alabaster
4 Jan 1817
Caroline Alabaster
16 months
Sent to Nurse Newell of Twickenham March 31 1817
Returned 26 May 1817
26 May 1817
Caroline Alabaster
20 months
Discharged May 26 1817 to father by order of the Board
16 Sept 1817
Mary Ann Alabaster
Sept 22 1817
Nov 12 1817
Mary Ann Alabaster
with child delivered Nov 16 1817 
discharged Dec 9 1817
Nov 16 1817
Sarah Alabaster born baptised Nov 20 1817
discharged Dec 9 1817 with mother
5 Dec 1818
Mary Ann Alabaster
discharged 30 Jan 1819
5 Dec 1818
Caroline Alabaster
3-4 mths
discharged 30 Jan 1819 with mother
5 Dec 1818
Sarah Alabaster
13 mths
discharged 30 Jan 1819 with mother
1 April 1819
Caroline Alabaster
discharged to Thomas Alabaster her father by order 3 May 1819
1 April 1819
Sarah Alabaster
16 months
discharged to Thomas Alabaster her father by order 3 May 1819

This certainly appears to be our Thomas. The crime for which he was transported was committed only six weeks after the discharge of his daughters into his care on 3 May 1819. I wonder whatever happened to Caroline and Sarah, or indeed Mary Ann.

Today we hear that little consideration is given to the family of prisoners, who also suffer the punishment. How much less consideration would have been given in 1819! There is no record of any of these three after civil registration began in 1837, so by this time that had either married or died. Perhaps, in time, we will discover.

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Some Early Memories

by May Millican (I)

In 1900, when I was about eighteen months old, my father Richard Alabaster moved down to Southend-on-Sea from East Ham to live in one of the houses he had already built in Tintern Avenue. My mother travelled down with me by train. Our furniture followed in a van drawn by two carthorses and did not arrive at the expected time. My father sought the help of the local police, who discovered that the van was stuck in the mud on Bread and Cheese Hill some miles from Southend. That steep, muddy lane is now part of the busy A13. At bedtime I remember being tucked up in my father's overcoat on the floor, since we had no beds that night. The house was warm, since in those days it was the custom for builders to keep fires burning in newly built property to dry out the walls. When I was older, I was often sent to make up the fires for my father.

Southend celebrated its centenary in 1992 so the town and I have grown old together. At the turn of the century the area was still quite rural. I walked along the London Road beside cornfields bright with poppies when I attended Chalkwell School. From our house in Tintern Avenue we could walk across fields to the parish church of St Mary's, Prittlewell, for Southend was, in fact, the south end of Prittlewell. There were a number of thatched cottages, one of which was the local inn, brewing its own beer. The Plough public house stands on that site today.

The milkman called three times a day bringing milk from the local farms. He carried churns on his handcart together with measures (quart, pint, half-pint, and gill) to serve milk at the door.

I remember that we had four deliveries of post each day - the last in the early evening. Shops too were open late at night. On Christmas Eve there would be turkey auctions in the High Street.

Household chores were very different - no electric cleaners - damp tea leaves were applied to carpets to lay the dust and then vigorous application of a stiff brush. Coal and log fires meant regular visits from the chimney sweep and being sent out to see that the brush was really right up the chimney. In spite of the use of dust sheets, thorough cleaning was needed after each visit to get rid of the soot. One of my Saturday jobs, for pocket money, was to clean the knives, not stainless steel then, with scouring powder and emeryboard. Wash day was extremely busy, especially with four girls in the family. First the copper, built into a corner of the scullery, had to be filled with water. Then the fire was lit beneath it. When washed and rinsed, clothes were put through a mangle which had huge wooden rollers and was usually kept outside.

At one time my father was on contract work on Canvey Island. Because there was no bridge linking the island to the mainland, only stepping stones at the ford, he would have to stay overnight unless low tide coincided with the end of the working day.

As a schoolgirl I travelled with my father on one of the last horse-buses in London. People of my generation have certainly seen many changes in everyday lifestyle with the invention of numerous labour-saving devices: the storage of food in refrigerators and freezers, not to mention the varied means of transport, from the family car to Concorde.

May Millican, nee Alabaster (I) November 1993


Part of Branch I showing the descent of May Millican (née Alabaster)

Edwin Stammers
(07 Jan 1835-Sep 1922)
m. Jun 1859 Romford
Mary Ann RICKARD (Ann)
(29 Nov 1837-13 Nov 1925)

Henry Stammers
(c. 1860 - 10 Nov 1945)
m. 13 Apr 1884
(13 Apr 1863 -
22 Apr 1959)

Richard Rickard
(10 Sep 1863 -
19 Nov 1948)
m. Jun 1897
Clare RYAN
21 Jun 1876 -
31 Oct 1937)
(1865 - 30 May 1946)
m. Mar 1915 Bridlington
(c. 1879 - 12 Jan 1956)

Clara Constance May
(15 Sep 1898 -)
m. 1921 George Durham MILLICAN

Joan Irene MILLICAN (23 May 1922 -) 
Edwin Rickard ALABASTER
(Mar 1900 - Sep 1900)
(04 Feb 1901 - 1949)
m. Jun 1927 Rochford

Roderick Richard
(16 May 1938 -) 
(23 Apr 1903 -
21 July 1991)
(14 Jan 1905 -
03 Mar 1973)

May Millican (nee Alabaster) celebrated her 95th birthday on 15th September 1993. She is certainly the oldest member of the Alabaster Society! Is she, also, the oldest member of the Alabaster family (born Alabaster)? Do let us know!  Laraine.


A Memorable Visit to Canada

John Stammers Alabaster (I)

My wife Beryl and I had a wonderful visit to Canada last autumn when, amongst other things, we met up with a cousin of my father's, Ted Stammers Alabaster and his wife Irene, who had emigrated to Canada soon after the last war and now live in Oliver, British Columbia. They had earlier met and put us in touch with Nan Kenyon, the great-granddaughter of Mary Ann Rebecca Alabaster (Branch IIC; page 16 of the 1990 Booklet), that remarkable woman who had brought up as her own her three famous nephews: Charles (of New Zealand); Henry (of Siam), and Chaloner (of China), all of whom featured prominently in the notes of the first Alabaster Gathering. Nan lives at Penticton, just north of Oliver, and so we were able to pay her a visit too.Criss cross writing


Left: an example of criss-cross writing


It proved a fascinating visit, but all too short. Nan had so much material on the family going back to the time when her grandfather, Percy Criddle, emigrated to Canada in 1882, and even further back to the time when Rebecca's brother James Chaloner Alabaster had visited Canada in 1837 to try to establish a claim to land purchased by his mother. There was material of all kinds galore, photographs, diaries, letters (sometimes overwritten at right angles to save paper and postage) and copies of legal documents, including an agreement with the Red Indians dated 1760 to sell a vast amount of land for "one Hundred White Blankets...Twenty Barrels of rum forty Pounds of Vermillion Twenty Thousand Weapon and three Hundred pounds of Gunpowder - Two Hundred Weight of Shot and Ball". These terms of the agreement tell a story in themselves, the aftermath of which we were to hear about later from "Native Americans" (as they now like to be called), who are presently trying to regain something of what they have lost in the past.

We were overwhelmed by Nan's treasure trove of history and, in the end, chose to spend most of our time extracting or copying the correspondence between Rebecca and her nephew Henry of Siam and his wife Palacia and other material about Henry.

Perhaps a few quotes will illustrate Henry's helpful role with the King of Siam, his antagonism towards the British Consul, Mr Knox, and the concomitant difficulties to be faced by a dutiful wife.The Criddle household in Manitoba



Right: the Criddle household in Manitoba



Jan 1676: Henry to Auntie:
"This New Year on duty from an early hour. I do not complain. The more I am used the more necessary I become and the better I hope will be my remuneration. I am as proud as ever I was now - having made my posi tion without anyone to thank for it Palacia now leads society and her parties are the only largely attended ones.
She and her lady friends decline to go where Mr Knox's daughters go - and so make successful parties impossible except in our house".

19 June, 1877: Palacia to Auntie:
"....Henry has been wonderfully well through all the hot season, the trip with the King and then our own trip in the cold season quite set him up. Charles and Ernest [her sons] are not quite so well. I think require sea air. I am going to take them down to the coast for a few weeks. I am a martyr to prickly heat which makes me exceedingly irritable and disagreeable. We are going on very quietly in Bankok, one week much the same as another and the time slips away very quickly. His Majesty gave us a little change and a very pleasant evening last week....and received us in the drawing room of the New palace - he has exceedingly nice manners.. . Henry is just starting off on a surveying trip - not very good weather for such work - I think he will have to join us at the seaside after - it is such hard work preparing for these trips to the sea - we have to take everything with us - and I am so tired just now wi th my attempt to prepare that I can hardly stand ...... Yours affectionately. . . . "

25 May, 1879: Palacia to Auntie from Bangkok:
"Henry is very busy with the Siamese - sent for at all hours of the day - and woken up out of his sleep in the night - I wish that they would see that his salary is inadequate - which is most certainly is - it is wonderful how he manages to get such an amount of brain-work [done]... Ah, if Henry and I could only be there [England] with the boys. I believe I miss them more and more and when there will be a prospect of seeing them I do not know. I was glad to get your account of them.....".

Percy Criddle kept a diary covering most of his time in Canada. It makes fascinating reading, running to some four half-inch thick A4 typed volumes, transcribed by Alma Criddle. She has used it, together with other materials to write an account of the pioneering days of the family in Manitoba: it was published under the title "Criddle-de-diddle-ensis"[!]: it is used as a text in the schools of the province. Nan very kindly gave me a copy and I will tell you more about it in a later article.

Finally, we had to take our leave of Nan and her family, but we did take with us a large packet of documents about the land transfer (which I intend to decipher and write up), as well as very happy memories indeed of the warm welcome and hospitality we received from our distant relatives in Canada.

10th January 1994.

To Contents

William Alabaster

William Alabaster, 1567 - 1640, Doctor of Divinity

William Alabaster, 1567 - 1640, Doctor of Divinity, nephew of Thomas Alabaster of Hadleigh
To Contents

To and from Alabaster Hut

by Robin Alabaster

Sunday 24th February 1991.

My oldest son, Nicholas, and I had just completed eight days of continuous walking on the Keppler and Milford tracks. We were feeling tired, but fit, and by now we were confident of our ability to cope, having carried all our clothing and food as "freedom" walkers. We were anxious to visit Lake Alabaster but it was some distance from us at Milford, first by road, and then seven hours of walking just to the southern end of the Lake, with the prospect of returning by the same route after first walking the length of the Lake.

Covering the same ground twice was not a pleasant prospect; the alternative was to fly in to the Pyke River airstrip north of the Lake and walk out. To fly to the Lake itself by sea plane would have been ideal but cost NZ $750; we chose the cheaper option, available subject to good weather and compatible flight schedules, but to the airstrip. for NZ $250 (approx £80).Alabaster Hut, New Zealand

Now. you should know that Fiordland, and Milford in particular, is the wettest part of New Zealand. Annual rainfall is five metres on 265 days a year.

The daily record, set in the 1980s, is 23 inches in 24 hours. On our four days on Keppler we had had 38 hours of continuous rain but on Milford it had only rained on the last night, from 9.00 pm until 9.30 am, so we were well and truly up against the averages.

Nevertheless, Sunday dawned clear and bright. The flight was on and at approximately 10.00a.m. our pilot, Russell, arrived at Milford in an Air Fiordland single-engined six-seater. Nick sat up front with the pilot. I sat behind, clutching the neighbouring seat for support, our packs occupying the back two seats.

Air Traffic Control presented no problems and we were quickly down the runway and airborne. The runway itself points direct to Mitre Peak and, as we took off, the peak itself loomed large in the cockpit between Nick and the pilot. The plane climbed agonisingly slowly, edging along the mountain side. I felt that I could lean out and pick flowers. Then, suddenly, a bump, a fall. We had crossed a pass and the ground was thousands of feet below and I suffered instant vertigo. Nick, a freefall parachutist, was in his element. First into view came Lake McKerrow, then far below, Lake Alabaster and the tiny Alabaster hut lurking in the trees. We flew up the Lake and beyond to the landing strip which linked a bend in the river and was cut through grass little wider than the plane's undercarriage. The pilot turned back to the lake and river and circled for three times with the wings almost vertical while he scrutinised the ground for an alternative landing site. I clutched the neighbouring seat for support, growing giddy at the sight of the revolving ground. Again, Nick was in his element. Finally the pilot returned to the strip and set us down, much to my relief. Out we piled, rucksacks and all. The pilot walked down to the river's edge and returned shaking his head. The river was too deep to cross at that point, and approximately 75 yards across. At last the penny dropped, we were on the wrong side of the river. I understood the earlier air search for an alternative landing site. Back on to the plane, we taxied up the runway and got off at the far end where we were assured we could ford the river without difficulty. I paid the pilot off and waved goodbye.

Stripping off down below, and carrying our boots round our necks, we set off across the river. It was freezing. Before long it was deep. The strength of the current washed the stones out from under our feet. We were up to our respective "plimsoll lines". Only by standing together and edging forward an inch at a time were we able to withstand the current in the mainstream and reach slack water.

Lake Alabaster, New ZealandClimbing up the muddy bank, we were confronted with thick undergrowth. On went all our clothes for protection as we forced our way through in search of the track, frequently to be checked by thorn bushes and lawyer vine (so named because once in its clutches. you can't get out)! After an age, we reached a narrow track marked by the Conservation Department's 2"x2" red and white squares. nailed to trees along the way. Such was our sense of achievement that we stood and shook hands, proud of our trailblazing effort through virgin scrub.
Pride cometh before a fall! We had only gone a very little way when the scrub ended and the narrow path entered a marsh.

Pictured left: Hollyford Track
with Mount Madeline in the distance

The track gleamed in the sun, being covered in several inches of water. On went gaiters to keep the feet dry and in I went, straight up to my knees, sinking through the mud below the deceptively clear water. Nick said, "You can`t sink below your waist," so I bravely let him lead the way. In just a very few steps he was indeed up to his waist. Not for me! I tried moving from tussock to tussock at the side of the track, sometimes staying dry but more often slipping and sliding but never getting much more than knee deep. After what seemed an age, we reached a grassy area with just a few surprise holes, a small fern forest, all just head height, making it impossible to see where were were putting our feet. Alabaster LakeThen more scrub and finally a pebble beach on the shores of Lake Alabaster (pictured right).

Time first for photographs, then off with boots, socks and all and a wash in the cool clear waters. The sun shone. It was idyllic. We spread our socks out to dry. Then the sandflies struck.

The sandfly (Te Namu in the Maori tongue) was, so legend has it, a creation of the Goddess Hine-nui-te-po, she of the underworld fame. Apparently, even "Hine" had momentarily been distracted from her evil works by the beauty of Milford. She had therefore created Te Namu so that humans could not linger long and fall from following her evil ways. As with many Maori legends, there is more than a grain of truth, for only the female flies are actually blood suckers. Anyway, we lingered no longer, kitted up and set off.

But where was the track? We paced up and down the beach searching. Then, after rechecking the map and lake levels, the penny dropped. The track was actually in the lake: so now throughly wet and bitten, on we went walking along the shoreline until once again the water became too deep for further progress. We struck off into the thick forest on the lake's edge, making a new track as we went. In time we found an old, extremely overgrown track, which we then followed. From now on it was a continuous battle against both time and the elements. The track suffered from washouts or tree falls in addition to regrowth by vines, bushes, etc. The wash-outs varied from small to huge, with whole areas of hillside collapsed, needing prolonged searching to pick up the track. The tree falls, some new, others years old, sometimes needed considerable detours and it was a constant battle to keep to the track, needing Nick and me to "sweep" the undergrowth on either side of obstacles until the track was rediscovered.
The day remained bright and, mercifully, good light reached the forest floor, but as the afternoon wore on, the sun went down behind the mountains and progress slowed down. We now realised that there was a real danger of our not making it to the Alabaster hut before nightfall.

Nature, who had clearly not been on our side today, suddenly came to our help. A giant wash-out, almost two hundred yards wide, cleared miles of forest from the mountainside to the lake's edge. Whilst Nick went to the waterside, I seached for the track (after first having to ford a series of rivers, presumably the cause of the giant landslide). I found the track and, at the same time, an animated shout from Nick told me that the end of the Lake was in sight and, better still, a trail of smoke was rising from the trees -- Alabaster Hut was occupied! Alabaster hutSinging "show me the way to go home" and other ditties, we crashed on through the trees, making it to the Hut with less than half an hour of twilight left to spare. A family of four was in residence and plied us with tea and provided a hot fire to dry our clothes.
Alabaster Hut (pictured right) is old and creaky, surrounded by thick forest. During the night, the mice scurried around the floor (the food had been placed by me on the centre of the table and the table itself in the centre of the room -- a trick learned in a previous hut). The mice remained hungry. Possums clonked around on the roof and left their visiting cards on the verandah. Other larger animals had crashed around in the undergrowth, clearly curious about their human neighbours. We were so lucky to have had company. The hut was rarely used these days. On the notice board there was a warning against using the track to Olivine Hut (our chosen route), and only one other walker had succeeded that year: others had tried and turned back! On the following day, photographs at dawn were followed by a good breakfast and some lengthy letter writing, including a two page contribution to the visitors' book warning of the perils of the track. After some time Nick spoke up -- did I realise that it was doubtful whether we had enough time to complete the next leg of the walk that day? Panic! We quickly packed, said goodbye and were off.

Robin Alabaster (WofW).  To be continued in the next edition of the Chronicle.

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Members of the Alabaster Society
March 1994


Clara Constance May Millican
Dorothy S. Howell
Edwin Stammers Alabaster, Canada
John Stammers Alabaster
William E. Alabaster
Anthony Paul Alabaster
Adrian Alabaster
Alfred Oram
Beryl Neumann, Australia
Anthony Springall
Jeffrey Alabaster
Julia Alabaster
Laraine Hake
Leslie Oram
Margaret Evans, New Zealand
Michael Oram
Norman Charles Alabaster
Peter D. A. Alabaster
Philip Alabaster
Shirley Rowe
Stephen Peter Alabaster
Sylvia Good

Colin Alabaster
Michael William Alabaster

Ann Criddle-Kenyon, Canada
Margaret Francis, New Zealand
Mary Christine (Molly) Duffy, New Zealand

Bryon Alabaster
Clive Alabaster
Evelyn J. Monaghan
Frederick Leonard Alabaster
George David Alabaster
James Christopher Alabaster, Australia
Lilian Alabaster
Robert Clifford Alabaster
Valerie Henrietta Fowler

Barbara Murphy
Denis Arthur Alabaster
Frank Nottage
Gwen Lewis
James H. Alabaster
Joan Watts
John Steven Alabaster, USA
Pauline F. Alabaster
Theresa Byrne
John Brian Alabaster
Bertha Dobson
Eileen Fowler
George Arthur Knox
Ivy Alabaster
John Henry Alabaster
Joy Stanley
Lily Hill
Mavis Ratcliffe
Pauline Alabaster, Australia
Peter Robert Alabaster
Robin Alabaster  

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