Over the past few weeks I have been delving into various archives and online sources to find out more about the Armenian community in Manchester between 1850 and 1950. I discovered that an Armenian family once lived in my home. I listened to a recording of an Armenian couple talking about their lives in Manchester. I discovered places in the city with links to Armenian history. This is now where I direct my focus – where did the Armenian community live, work and socialise? The earliest Armenians began to arrive in the late 1800s – but why then, and why Manchester?
The latter is fairly obvious, given Manchester’s industrial growth during the nineteenth century, and most of the Armenians who arrived here came to expand existing businesses they had started back home, frequently in shipping, textiles or a combination of the two.
Above: Portland Street in 1900, where many textile and shipping merchants were based, including some Armenian businesses (source)
A large number of Armenian Mancunians came from Constantinople (known as Istanbul today). Difficulties in Armenia had led to the displacement of many families from the seventeenth century onwards, and even in for those living in nearby Constantinople, life was by no means easy. Under Ottoman rule, Armenian Christians suffered persecution and later, genocide. For those fortunate enough to escape this grim fate, Manchester provided a haven of sorts where businesses could grow, families could settle and a community could come together.
Above: Old map of the Ottoman Empire with Constantinople in the centre (source)
The map below shows some of the places where Armenians lived and worked. Using a selected group of city trade directories (from 1929, 1903 and 1898), stored at the Greater Manchester County Record Office, I searched for names that have appeared in my research so far, including Funduklian, Shahbenderian, Papazian and Yegwartian. I then used this data to create an interactive map, selected images of which I’ve included here.
As you can see, the addresses cluster around Central Manchester (workplaces) and South Manchester (homes).
The above map shows a selection of Armenian business addresses from 1929 (red markers), 1903 (yellow markers) and 1898 (blue markers). The one below shows residential addresses from the same periods.
During the early twentieth century, like other members of Manchester’s affluent merchant classes, a significant number of Armenians settled in the suburbs, favouring Didsbury in particular. As you can see, I was unable to find any residential addresses for 1898. Prior to the 1900s the number of Armenians living in Manchester was still quite small.
Not far from these suburbs was (and still is) the Armenian Church, where various groups, including the Armenian Ladies’ Association met to socialise, learn English and raise money for Armenian charities. Just up the road is the University of Manchester, where many Armenians studied, and further still, the site of the now demolished Gaiety Theatre on Peter Street, where Mr Funduklian was a regular audience member. Close by was (and still is) the Midland Hotel, where Armenian events and meetings were often held.
Above: Armenian community meeting at the Midland Hotel in Manchester (source)
Of course my research here is selective. Not all of the Manchester Armenian community are represented in the archives at the Greater Manchester County Record Office, and the telephone directories on which I based my sample did not include all of them either. Furthermore, my searches were restricted to names and businesses I had come across in the archives. Nonetheless, it is fascinating to re-examine Manchester in relation to the history of a particular community – I pass many of these places regularly, now with a new-found appreciation for their significance.
For more detailed information about some of the addresses mentioned here, please see this map.