The story of a community
The registers kept at the parsonage in Christ Church - The Crimean Memorial (Anglican) stretch back to the mid 18th century, however one needs a good eye to decipher much of the early records in elaborate and faint handwriting. The initial register was a combined Baptism, marriage and death register for 1757-1840, later the following order.
1- The first marriage recorded: Thomas Case from Stafford / Therapia to Alexandrina Mavromattia (R.C.) [Armenian?] of Therapia, married in the Palace of Therapia 1835 by chaplain Samuel Bennett of the Embassy
Of the 12 marriages recorded between 1835-39, 8 were conducted in Therapia and 4 at the Pera chapel. Of provenance of the bachelors for marriage 35 were from Therapia, 2 Hasköy and 4 Pera. Both figures show the former relative importance of Therapia, the out of town location where the summer Embassy was based. Today nothing remains of this heritage, as the summer ambassadorial residence of Therapia has long since been burnt down, leaving the gardens that still are the venue for the British community summer events.
2- 1840-1889, Chapel of the Ambassador [St. Helena within the consulate grounds]
3- 1891-2001, Chapel of the Ambassador (also Therapia and Christ church)
1920 Molly Jackson (30) secretary – British woman’s hostel in Nişantaşı, [a benevolent institution ?]
1946 Leslie George Johnston (to Gwenda Mary Bowen) of 51/3 Ali Çelebi sok. Tarabya.
4- 1881-1986, Crimean Memorial Church.
Entry no 15, George Yerushalmy, age 23, formerly of Smyrna, Jewish persuasion. [Brother of Baptist Y. buried in Buca].
Provenances, in order, Therapia, Pera, Galata.
2- 1840-2000: For embassy, later Christ church.
3- 1869-1994: For Christ church, Crimean Memorial.
First entry (William Paterson) died British hospital, Galata [showing institution active at this date]
Last entry for burial at ‘British burial ground Pera’ [exact location not sure of], (John Hamilton 1841).
2- 1899-1996: 96 entries
3- 1921- Present: A source informing us of the ‘last of the line’ Levantines
Adelia Beatrice Wilkin, born 1894 – buried Feriköy, never married and was the last of her family. In her youth had taught Whittall and La Fontaine children in Burnabat.
Eileen La Fontaine (87) died 1977 of 251, Moda caddesi
Lydia Mary Whittall (89) died 1978 of Yusuf Kamil Paşa sok, no: 5, Moda
Hugh Edgar La Fontaine, born Bornova 1896, died Istanbul 1979 of 217 Moda caddesi, buried Haydarpaşa
Tombstone inscription book:
Possibly done during the Allied occupation period (1920-22), giving an insight of the varied Crimean war cemeteries scattered. Section:
1- Scutari [Haydarpaşa]: 98 entries military / civilian 1853-1878
2- Beicos (Selvi Burnu) [possibly along the Bosphorus near Tarabya]: 11 entries seamen / civilian 1839-1856.
3- Therapia: 22 entries Royal Navy / Marines and later civilian 1855-1867.
4- Kuleli [possibly along Asiatic shore near naval academy of same name, officers may have been under the Sultan’s authority]: 4 entries civilian / military.
5- Appendix of breakdown of ‘Total losses sustained by our Army in the East’ (officers 420, NCO & men 21.087).
The German, French and Swedish consulates in Istanbul have historical research institutes loosely attached to their consulates, together with a public service of libraries, and lecture series. From these organisations various specialist publications are published from time to time, including one recently (‘The Swedish Palace in Istanbul’ - 2000) written by the Swedish ambassador (Sture Theolin). Considering the significant British past in this city it is a pity no similar institution exists for the British consulate (there is an Ankara based archaeology institute, that seems to have a more limited remit). The consular authorities seem to have regular ‘clear-outs’ of archive documents and my last request (2001) to ascertain if any were available for public viewing was answered by ‘if any remained they were probably destroyed in the consulate fire [of 1999]’. The same applied to historic books going back to 1675, transferred from Christ Church in 1976 when it was closed down and later partially retrieved in a rain soaked condition in a rickety shed within the grounds of the British consulate or found by chance in bookshops, recognised by the Crimean Memorial Church stamp and bought back by Ft Ian in the early 1990s. Such is the disregard for the Levantine heritage by some of the newer consular staff.
To view examples of registers viewable in Istanbul, click here: