Street View: 23
Address: 58 Piccadilly
The shop listed in Tallis’s Street View 23 for Charles Alabaster is an example of a business where the name of the original owner remained long after he had died. Charles Alabaster and his wife Mary had four children: Mary Ann Rebecca (born 1805), James Chaloner (1806), Henry (1811) and Katherine (1814), who were all still minors when Charles died in 1820.(1) In his will, written in 1817, he names his wife Mary sole executor and beneficiary, trusting her to do with his estate whatever will be best for “her own comfort and the bringing up of [his] dear children”.(2) Mary continued the business under the name of C. Alabaster, straw and fancy hat maker. It is listed as such in the 1841 Post Office Directory, although by then it was no longer Mary who ran the business. She had died in 1838 and after various named bequests, had left the residue of her estate to son James Chaloner on condition that he would make a will “that after providing an interest in the above residue after his decease to his wife and sister in law Frances Alabaster during their lives bequeaths the remainder of the above residue to his children in such proportions as he may think advisable”.(3)
But James did not survive his mother for very long and died in May 1840, a few months after his wife Harriet (née Woodman; she was the daughter of James Woodman, hairdresser at 46 Piccadilly). He made a new will, dated the 21st of May 1840, in which he left all his property for the use of his three children Charles, Henry, and Chaloner, for whom he appointed his sister Mary Ann guardian. She, her husband Harry Criddle, and their sister-in-law Frances, the widow of their brother Henry, were to be joint trustees. James mentions the business at 58 Piccadilly, which, as long as the trustees thought it profitable, was to be continued by the three of them, but one fourth of the profits thereof was to go to Frances “as a repayment and compensation for her time and labor”. Another fourth part is to go to Mary Ann and her husband and the remaining two fourths are to go to the guardians in trust for the children. He would like one of his children to take over the business with the other two to receive their portions of the estate.(4) James was buried in All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green (more on the family grave here).
Mary Ann’s husband, Harry Criddle, was the son of Harry Holman Criddle, a hatter who had been in partnership with John Breach at 46 New Bond Street until February 1810 when they dissolved the partnership. Harry Holman continued the business on his own, later at 148 New Bond Street.
Mary Ann and Harry Criddle took the responsibility entrusted upon them by her brother seriously and, according to the 1841 census, Charles and Chaloner Alabaster are living with them in Sloane Street. Little Henry was not listed with them that year, but he is ten years later in the 1851 census. The 1841 census found sister-in-law Frances at 58 Piccadilly as straw bonnet maker, but two years later, she also died. She left her property to her father Charles Poppy and named Harry Criddle the executor of her will. The probate record states that, although Frances’ address was 58 Piccadilly, she had lately been staying at 64 Sloane Street, so with Mary Ann and Harry.(5) The business continued to exist, but had a setback in 1847 when the shop caught fire. The fire had started in the bakery of David Simpson next door, but the fire crew could not prevent it spreading to the Alabaster premises. According to the newspaper report, the damage to the Alabaster shop from fire and water was very extensive, but no more details were given.(6)
The tax records show the names of Alabaster and Criddle for number 58 till 1850; the following year, the tax for the property is paid by Emma Gill and Ann Jeffries, fancy stationers, whom we also find at number 58 in the 1851 census. Harry and Mary Ann Criddle, with their son Percy and nephews Charles and Henry Alabaster are found at 115 Piccadilly. Harry is listed as ‘proprietor of houses and superintendent of trade in Leghorn bonnets’. Charles is listed as student of King’s College, London, and he was later to study at Lincoln College, Oxford. He became a priest, from 1859 onwards in Christchurch, New Zealand, and died there in 1865 of tuberculosis. His brothers Henry and Chaloner were both diplomatically involved in the Far East; more on them here and here. So none of the Alabaster children seemed to have had the inclination to continue their father’s straw bonnet shop, but that does not mean that the business was terminated when they went off to their various careers in foreign parts. The 1851 Post Office Directory still lists the business of Charles Alabaster, straw and fancy hat maker at number 58, but in the 1856 Post Office Directory number 58 is no longer mentioned, which accords well with the tax records. However, at number 115, the Post Office Directory lists the firm of Alabaster and Toovey, straw hat makers, certainly suggesting that Criddle continued to work in the straw hat industry. He died in 1857.(7) Mary Ann retired to Addlestone, Chertsey, Surrey, where she died in late 1880.
No more is to be said about the straw bonnet business, but if we go back in time, another aspect of the Alabaster/Criddle family comes to light. The Transactions of the Society Instituted at London for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (1826) listed a prize, a silver palette, for a Miss Alabaster of 38 Piccadilly for a drawing in chalk from a bust. 38 was a mistake for 58 and Miss Alabaster was Mary Ann who continued to receive prizes for her art work, for instance in 1832 a gold medal from the same Society for a historical composition painted in oil. More on her artistic life here. From 1841 onwards, the census entries list her as ‘artist’, and this artistic talent was inherited by her grandson Norman (Percy’s son) who excelled in flower paintings. Percy emigrated to Canada in 1882 and the story of the Criddle family is depicted on the website of the Sipiweske Museum, Wawanesa, Manitoba (see here) Click the ‘thumbnail gallery’ to find more examples of Mary Ann’s and Norman’s art. The Canadian Criddle household was decidedly unusual as Percy not only shipped his wife and children there, but also his mistress and the children he had with her, supposedly as ‘help’ for his wife, later usually referred to as ‘family friend’. You can read more about that side of the story here and here.
(1) A lot of research has already been done by others on the Alabaster family and I have made grateful use of the information provided on the Alabaster Society website.
(2) PROB 11/1626/227.
(3) PROB 11/1896/183.
(4) PROB 11/1928/288.
(5) London Metropolitan Archives DL/C/518/143.
(6) The Northern Star, 10 April 1847.
(7) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858. Effects valued at under £3,000.
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