Last week I was introduced to a pile of dusty old portraits, retrieved from the depths of the Greater Manchester County Record Office. Some had names and dates attached, mostly referring to the early twentieth century. There was a suggestion that the portraits had been rescued from a hospital, and some of the men in the portraits were listed as doctors, .
One of the gentlemen pictured was a Mr S. H. Astardjian.
An impressive, if rather unusual, portrait (source)
Preliminary research established that most of the gentlemen in the portraits had links to Altrincham General Hospital, either as doctors or members of committees. However, Mr Astardjian’s name stood out – the suffix ‘ian’ and the spelling of his surname suggested that he might be Armenian. This was an exciting prospect, given that as a volunteer at Archives+ I have been researching the history of Manchester’s Armenian community.
Further research confirmed that Stepan Hagop Astardjian was in fact one of many Armenians living in Manchester in the early 1900s, and he ran a business with a Boghos Stepan Astardjian – his son, suggesting that his involvement with the hospital may have been of a charitable nature. Luckily for me, there was information about Mr Astardjian’s company stored in the record office, and after requesting it I was confronted with a pile of enticing brown boxes and an old framed photograph. This represented only part of the large collection of Astardjian records.
The most exciting box was crammed with old leather bound diaries – tiny journals spanning from the 1920s right up until the 1960s, authored by Mr Boghos Astardjian – Stepan’s son.
Above: Inside the front of Mr Astardjian’s 1944 diary (source)
I was mildly disappointed at the lack of personal entries (most consisted of illegible notes and details of meetings, reminders and so forth), but there were some notable exceptions. Firstly, a lock of hair, pressed between the yellowing pages of a 1944 diary.
I wonder who the hair belonged to? (source)
The diaries became more revealing during the years of WWII – Mr Astardjian served as a Private in the British Army, although the exact nature of his duties and duration of service are unclear. The war-related diary entries are brief and sporadic, but there were some (often difficult to read) mentions of Hitler and Churchill.
See the entry on Thursday May 3rd – Astardjian quotes from a speech by Churchill, in which the former Prime Minister referred to ‘miserable set of criminal politicians’ in Bulgaria. See a transcript of the original speech here.
Finally I was thrilled to find a mention of Mr Karnig Funduklian, the former owner of the Didsbury house I currently live in. He was the starting point for my interest in the history of Manchester’s Armenian community, which has led to posts about the Armenian Genocide, Armenian life in Manchester (including oral history and photographs), and various Armenian individuals.
See bottom right for the Funduklian mention (source)
Talking of Mr Funduklian, I have also been fortunate to view one of his original business agreements, again, courtesy of the Greater Manchester County Record Office. This beautifully presented document was found by chance during a sorting of legal records.
Above: Pages from the document (source)
This provided me with several important leads, such as the original name of the Funduklian business before it moved from Constantinople to Manchester, and the name of Mr Funduklian’s main investor. These valuable clues, and those contained in the Astardjian records have injected new life into my research. In the coming weeks I look forward to uncovering more about the history of Armenians in Manchester.