6th June 1371. Alabaster.
The Tudor traveller John Leland spoke of Burton-on-Trent as being a place for alabaster modelling, notably by Richard and Gabriel Royley, craftsmen who were variously known as alabastermen, kervers, marblers and image-makers.
Nottingham was the centre of the trade and it was Today in 1371 that a payment was made to Peter Maceon of that city, of the balance of 300 marks for a table (altar piece) of alabaster for the high altar within the free Chapel of Saint George of Windsor.(1)
Alabaster is a mineral of Gypsum and various impurities, easier to carve than marble and occurring in the Keuper Marls of the English Midlands, at Fauld near Burton, Newark and Chellaston where it was known as ’Patrick’ and Derbyshire Spar.(2)
By the 14thc alabaster was taking over from sandstone and limestone, for memorial use, and found ideal for recumbent tomb effigies, usually painted, especially as it was a comparative weak material.
However with the Reformed Church theologically against funerary memorials, resulting in wholesale destruction, the English alabaster trade was now forced to look to France.
The V&A Museum, London holds many examples of Nottingham alabaster and many tombs, of the material, are extant in country churches including those of the Fitzherberts’ in the church of St Mary and St Barlok, Norbury near Ashbourne.
(1) The execution of the deal cost £200 and used 10 carts, 80 horses, 20 men and £30 for transport over 17 days, in the Autumn of 1367.
(2) Running through Gypsum ‘hardens’ the water, traditionally good for Burton Ale, but not for washing, so tap water was ‘softened’ by using washing soda (sodium carbonate) the salt of carbonic acid, which being slightly acidic, removes the calcium and magnesium ions.
The ionic minerals Ca2+(aq) and Mag2+(aq) in the water solution causes ‘hardness’ and lime-scale.
A later use of alabaster was in the Leicestershire coalfield where a ‘Bauble Cottage Industry’ grew up using the Derbyshire mineral. J. Tugby and Palen & Sons were two firms making plates, jugs, egg-cups to be sold at the local monastery of Mount Saint Bernard, fairs and the sea-side until cheaper continental supplies arrived about 1900.
Ref: wikipedia.org/norbury/Pic image.
Ref: Nottingham Alabaster History. Jill Armitage. 2015-Google Books Result.
Ref: English Medieval Industries. John Blair, Hambledon Press. 1991.