Hadleigh and the Alabaster Family:
the Story of a Suffolk Town
during the Tudor and Stuart periods
by Sue Andrews and Tony Springall
During the Tudor and Stuart periods, the town of
Hadleigh was at its zenith: at the same time, an extraordinary and
influential family lived there. The extended Alabaster family included:
- The uncle - Nicholas Shaxton, former Bishop of
Salisbury, curate at Hadleigh (1540-1544), failed martyr and,
eventually, suffragan Bishop of Ely.
- The founding father of the Hadleigh dynasty, Thomas
Alabaster, became wealthy in the woollen-cloth industry and a 'Chief
Inhabitant' of the town.
- The elder son - Thomas Alabaster, a London merchant
and first accountant of the East India Company, traded in Spain where
he was involved in spying and smuggling. Following protection by the
Crown for much of the last two decades of his life, he ended his days
as an outlaw.
- The son-in-law, Cambridge academic John Still, was
Rector of Hadleigh (1571-1592), and later Bishop of Bath and Wells.
- The founder's younger brother - Roger Alabaster. He
married into the Puritan Winthrop family of Groton, became involved in
their exploits in Ireland and was uncle to one of the founding fathers
of the United States of America.
- The cleric son of Roger, William Alabaster, raided
Cadiz with the Earl of Essex, became a poet, and then a Catholic for
which he was imprisoned, but escaped to Rome and eventually found
favour with King James I.
- The founder's younger son - John Alabaster took over
his father's business as a clothier, and held office as Hadleigh's
second Mayor, founding the town's first elementary school.
- The later generations - grandsons John and Thomas
both served as Mayor, but the early death of a great-grandson caused
much of the family's wealth to be dispersed.
The history of Hadleigh at this time provides an
opportunity to explore the structures, problems and aspirations of a
prosperous early modern town. Through the eyes of the Alabaster family
we see kinship ties, property ownership, inheritance and the domination
of town government by an elite oligarchy. We meet protagonists at the
time of the Reformation and the beloved rector who was martyred on
Aldham Common. In contrast, one hundred years later, an unpopular
rector was dismissed for sexual offences. Making an appearance are the
sexton, the master of the workhouse, miscreants before the Peace
Sessions and at the Dean's Court nicknamed 'the bawdy court`. However,
this is not an all-male story as tales of local characters like Susanna
Kemp, innkeeper at the King's Arms in Benton Street, Ellen Hammond,
inmate at the almshouses, and benefactress Alice Humphreys, are also
told. Aspects of daily life, both good and bad are featured:
misbehaviour in church, punishments on market day and over indulgence
in illegal tippling houses; poor pay in the cloth trade, periods of
dearth, visitations of plague and the making of wills.
Original research has been undertaken at:
- The National Archive - Public Record Office
- County Record Offices of Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and
- Hadleigh Archive
- other specialist archives and libraries
The following surnames are cited on at least five pages
of the book:-
Bankes, Barnes, Barrell, Beaumont, Blewitt, Bourchier, Britten, Brond /
Bronde, Brownsmith, Buckenham, Bull
Calton, Cecil, Clerke, Coleman, Cook / Cooke, Cooper, Cottesford,
Davye, Dorrington, Doyley, Dratsab
Flood / Fludd, Forth, Fowler, Foxe, Freeman, Fuller
Gaell, Gardiner, Gates, Gilbert, Glanfield, Goad, Goodall, Gosslen
Halman, Hamond, Harrison, Hubbard, Hudson, Humphrey, Hunlock
Latimer, Lawrence, Locke
Mansell, Martin, Moyse
Parker, Parkins, Parsons, Persons, Pincheon, Pollerne, Pykenham
Raven, Reason, Richardson, Rolfe
Scarlett, Shaxton, Smith, Still, Strutt
Taylor, Turner, Tyther
Vesey / Veysey
Warren, Wellam, Whiting, Winthrop, Wright.
This 384 page illustrated hardback book is available at
£14.99 (+ £5.00 p&p in UK) from:
The Federation of Family History Societies' sales website: http://www.genfair.co.uk/supplier.php?sid=7
or from: Sue Andrews, 17 Manor Rd, Bildeston, Suffolk, IP7 7BG
Purchasers overseas without a sterling account are likely to find it
most convenient to buy through Genfair or PayPal, and avoid costly
money conversion and transmission charges.
Profits from sales are shared between The Alabaster
Society and the Hadleigh Archive.
The Alabaster Chronicles
Nearly all Chronicles, except the more recent, can be read
online, although copies of most of the past issues are available for sale
They can be obtained by post from
the Hon. Sec. Laraine Hake, price £1.50 each, post paid to UK
addresses, and £2.00 each post paid overseas (sterling).
Laraine Hake, Tollgate Cottage, The Turnpike, Bunwell, NORWICH NR16 1SR