Miss Cynthia Hill
and Edward de Jongh were neighbours in the Athens neighbourhood of Psyphico.
Miss Hill’s mother, Thelma was from the Cumberbatch family who came
interview date 2002
Notes: 1- From the Donald Simpson
account of Anglican history of Smyrna we have dates of office of two
Cumberbatch Consuls. Robert William Cumberbatch 1864-1876 (died in office)
and Henry Alfred Cumberbatch (1896-1908). From the Internet we are aware
that the same H.A. Cumberbatch was in office as British Consul in Constantinople
in 1913. Also from the Internet
we know that Gertrude Bell called on the Cumberbatch Smyrna Consul (therefore
Henry Alfred) and his wife in 1907 –
2- From the Athens marriage registers we see that Marie Thelma, daughter
of Noel Cumberbatch, merchant, marries in 1924.
Miss Hill has a cousin, Mona Lekki living in Norfolk who is the custodian
of the family records. In addition Michael Barker, descendant of the
Barkers in Smyrna of the 19th century and in Egypt till the revolution
there, and who died in 2001 had constructed an extensive family tree
that through marriage included the Cumberbatches. Miss Hill has a copy
of this family tree as well as a collection of family papers. However
with succeeding generations having large families, tracing of relatives
becomes difficult. Miss Hill’s mother had over a hundred cousins over
half of which she did not know.
Miss Hill’s father Reginald Hill had his own business based in Athens,
named R.J & E.J. Hill & Sons, a firm specialising in insurance
and import / export he ran with one of the 6 brothers all born in Greece.
Reginald Hill also represented the ‘The Anglo-Greek magnesite company’,
which worked the mines of the island of Euboea and the Northern Greek
province of Macedonia. The Hill family had no Smyrna or Constantinople
connections and Miss Hill’s great grandfather first came in around 1825
when the Ionian islands of Cephalonia (and 6 others) were under British
protection (1814-1864) and administered by British high commissioners.
The story of the first settlement appears to be accidental, as great-great
grandfather, an O’Toole was left by the British navy in Cephalonia,
possibly for health reasons, before fighting the battle of the Nile
against the French navy (1798). O’Toole’s daughter who is Miss Hill’s
great grandmother married a Hill forming the Hill line. The O’Toole
line still survives on the island though they have all married Greeks.
The family were business orientated and maintained vineyards for wine
production for a while.
Note: In July 2011 contact was made with O’Toole descendant Benjamin Rossen who has researched this family, so these corrections and additional information is included:
John Augustus Toole (1790 - 1824), was an Irisham who dropped the O from his name to Anglicise it. He arrived on the Ionian Islands on the British Fleet, and was probably a young midshipman when first commissioned. According to family oral history he sailed out with Rear Admiral Lord Nelson, but I have not been able to confirm that in the archives. The Hill family story, that he was deposited on Cephalonia before the Battle of the Nile, is highly unlikely, as he would have been 8 years old or younger.
Our family oral history tells that he was seconded from the British Army and Marines in 1809, and appointed to an administrative position on the Island of Zante. He must have performed well, for in 1813 he was appointed Deputy Assistant Commissioner General for the whole of the Ionian Islands; this has been confirmed in the archives of the British Army and Marines. John Augustus was later sent to Cephalonia to serve under the then, Captain Napier. Among his various duties, he was Master of Harbours and Quarantines, again confirmed in historical records. The same Napier was later appointed Governor of Cephalonia.
We also know that John Augustus Toole married Countess Barbara Querini Stampalia in 1811, in Zante, before he moved to Cephalonia. This branch of the Querini Stampalia family owned property in Corfu, Zante and Crete. Records of this marriage can be found in Venice.
John and Barbara had five children.
Antonio Toole (never married, no children)
George Toole (never married, no children)
Mary Toole (married John Saunders, Banker sent out from England to run the British Ionian Bank)
Anne Toole (never married, no children)
Ernest Augustus (He made the family fortune, built the ‘vinarias’ plus a business empire).
John Saunders had been a Banker in Scotland, and was sent out to be the manager of the British Ionian Bank, that had recently been established as a joint-stock bank with capital from London. He married Mary Toole, and settled in Argostoli, Cephalonia. As far as I am able to determine they had only one child, James Saunders. James Saunders was my great grandfather.
Ernest Augustus Toole was a black sheep of the family in the early years. He ran up huge gambling debts. At first his mother payed them off. When she refused to keep paying, he stole money from the British Ionian Bank, where he worked as a clerk. The family bought him a ticket to America, and ordered him never to return. I have found records of this in public archives. He arrived in Boston in 1850. However, he made his way back to Greece after a sojourn of a few years, against family orders, and married Mariette Konidi in 1856. This was shocking to the family; Mariette Konidi was a girl of peasant origins. She had been orphaned at a very young age, and had been raised and trained by Countess Barbara. Although she remained more or less illiterate, she was talented and was Barbara Tools’ lady in waiting. There was a second attempt to send Ernest to America to prevent the marriage, but the family was not successful.
It is told that Mariette Konidi was the best thing that happened to Ernest Augustus. She refused his proposal of marriage, unless he swore never to gamble again. This too was almost unthinkable. Ernest Augustus, despite his peccadilloes, was a member of the Island aristocracy, and an orphaned peasant girl was out of line to refuse a marriage. Nevertheless, she achieved her aim. Ernest Augustus became a reformed man. He started the ‘vinarias’ of Argostoli and build a fabulous family fortune. He also became the German Consul in Cephalonia. Mariette rose to become a society lady in Argostoli, Cephalonia, and because of her bearing, good-looks and social graces was eventually accepted as a Lady. She entertained royalty in her home, including the German Kaiser.
Their children included:
Barbara Toole (named after her grandmother).
John Augustus Toole (named after his grandfather), a very successful wine maker and merchant in Cephalonia.
William Anthony Toole
Barbara Toole (my great grandmother) Married Jacob Wartmann, a Swiss Banker, who had a business in Corfu: They had two children:
James (Jimmy) Wartmann. Jimmy went to USA, and became a manager for Singer Sewing Machines Company)
After the death of Jacob Wartmann she married James Saunders, her cousin, the son of Mary Toole and John Saunders.
James Saunders was an astute business man and became very wealthy exporter of currants from Greece to England and the Netherlands. He was the British and Dutch Consul in Argostoli, and was knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands: Ridder in de Orde van Oranje Nassau. He also made a fabulous fortune and became a philanthropist; he gave generously to the Greek community in Cephalonia. He is still remembered there. Some Greeks consider him to be a saint, and his grave is cleaned, and fresh flowers are placed there still today. His one child, Alice Elizabeth Anne Saunders, was born on 5 April, 1894 (my grandmother).
Parts of the Vinaria is still present in Argostoli. Also, there was a water mill on the vinaria used to drive machinery inside. This is now a famous landmark.
The Toole family remained an important part of the Ionian Island gentry until the Second World War. After that, family fortunes were lost and the distinction between gentry and commoners became irrelevant. The other members of the family mostly married British expatriates, and in one case they married into the Lavrano family, Corfiot aristocracy from the Venetian times. One of the Tooles, either Evanthia or Fany, married into the Hill family of Athens. The Toole, Saunders and Raymond families remained British up to the Second World War. They were all very conscious of their position in society. Today, of course, the class distinctions have become largely irrelevant, and a 20th Century egalitarian society has the place of the 19th century stratified world. Today the Tools on the Islands marry into Greek families. The claim, above, that this had happened in the early 19th Century is simply not true, with the one exception of Mariette Konidi.
It may be interesting to add some notes here about social strata on the Islands in a more general sense. Most of Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time that Johan Augustus Toole arrived in Zante. The seven Ionian Islands had escaped Ottoman occupation as part of the Venetian Empire. Venetian Naval and economic might had declined during the 18th Century, and in 1796 Venice fell to the French under Napoléon Bonaparte. Opportunistic attempts by the Austrians, Russians and the Ottomans to take the Ionian Islands came to no lasting effect, and between 1800 and 1907 the Septinsular Republic briefly gave the inhabitants their first taste of self government. However, the Islands were retaken by the French. In 1809, British forces liberated the Island of Zante, and soon after Cephalonia and Kythria followed by Lefkada. In 1815, after the battle of Waterloo and the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Corfu and the remaining Ionian islands were passed into British hands. Britain established the United States of the Ionian Islands, and made it a protectorate of the British Empire. In theory it was a democratic state run by its own bicameral legislature, carried over from the short lived Septinsular Republic. In practice, however, it was administered by Lord High Commissioners appointed from Britain.
The official language of the Islands had been Italian (Venetian dialect) during the time of the Venetian Empire and the Septinsular Republic. Venetian aristocracy were generally large landowners. The Greeks on the islands were very poor peasants. Their numbers were periodically augmented by waves of refugees from the occupied mainland. Nevertheless, the Islands were more Italian than Greek. During the period of the British Protectorate, the primary language of government and commerce became English. The effect of the British presence was to soften the distinctions between the Venetian upper-class and the Greek peasant class. For example, the initial proposal to start a British Ionian Bank had come from Sir Charles Napier, while he was Governor of Cephalonia. He had been shocked to discover the feudal conditions and poverty of the Greek peasants on the island, many of whom were effectively indentured to Venetian landed gentry, and were kept that way by usurious money lending practices. The bank, he proposed, would have as its primary role the liberation of the peasants from debt. A secondary role would be the monetization of the economy to stimulate business and to simplify the collection of taxes. Sir Charles Napier was an idealist. As it turned out, when the bank was started its secondary role became its primary role, and it served above all the needs of the British merchant community on the Islands. Nevertheless, trickle down effects did occur, to use a contemporary term.
In 1864 the British held a plebiscite on the Islands, giving the inhabitants the choice of remaining a British Protectorate or forming a union with Greece. The people elected for Greece. During the Venetian period and the Septinsular Republic, Italian had been the official language of government. During the British Protectorate English predominated. After union Greek became the official language. This was to have profound consequences for the culture of the island. The Greek speaking population, predominantly peasants and traditionally the underclass, had become the masters of their own nation.
Mainland Greece had been liberated from Ottoman occupation in 1830, and after a tumultuous and chaotic period, a constitutional democracy with King George I of the Hellenes as head of state was instituted. A newfound sense of Greek identity and confidence in the future must have been palpable.
Europe continued to be viewed as if it were a distant part of another continent. Cultural direction was sought in European institutions and education. Nevertheless, growing self-consciousness among the Greek population was transforming the nation. A Greek speaking professional class began to dominate in the towns. Greeks proved themselves astute entrepreneurs, and a wealthy middle and upper class emerged.
Greeks have no time for aristocrats. The European Royalty transplanted to Greece by Britain, never fully captured the Greek imagination. The new Greek Constitution that became law on the 28th of November 1864, created a representative assembly elected by direct secret universal male suffrage, the first in modern Europe and ahead of its time. Greeks have thus both ancient and modern claims to be founding fathers of democracy. On the Ionian Islands, the Venetian aristocracy quietly dropped the use of their antiquated titles. To be British, however, remained a status apart. It was in this society and through these transitions that the Toole and Saunders families lived. They were the de facto aristocracy of the islands in the 19th Century, without titles, but with all the advantages of education and wealth to which the Greeks could aspire.
To view the full account of the family saga of John Toole and descendants in Greece, based on the oral history obtained from the mother of Mr Rossen, Vivian Iris Rossen née Raymond, born in Cephalonia, Greece, entitled ‘Golden Threads’ and an account written by Mr Rossen on the wider story and legacy of the Toole family in Cephalonia, based on various family papers.
The postcard shows the house that John Saunders acquired: The large white building. It is where my mother grew up - further general images of Argostoli
The Hill school in Athens is unconnected to
the family and was an institution established by missionary American
Quakers, early in the 19th century.
On the Cumberbatch side of her family, Miss Hill knows that of the first
Smyrna British Consul, Robert William (1821-1876) married Louisa Hanson,
whose family were British and involved with the building of the railways.
The second Consul of the family, Henry was born in 1858 and died in
1918 in Beirut. He was one of 12 children of Robert William, though
not all the offspring survived till adulthood. He also married a local
British lady, Helene Rees and the location of his death could be connected
to the fact that the Rees family were important in shipping. Henry had
five children and through some of the descendants the Cumberbatch name
lives on. The Cumberbatch origin in the Levant is more obscure than
the Hill side as it stretches back to the 18th century. However Miss
Hill is aware that the first Cumberbatch to be posted by the Consular
service was Abraham Carlton Cumberbatch but it seems the first posting
was in Imperial Russia. It was Miss Hill’s great-grandfather who was
in the Consulate in Constantinople (H.A.), and her grandfather, Arthur
Herbert (1860-1921) was employed by the French tobacco monopoly ‘Regie
de Tabacs’ in Istanbul. He married a Marian Tristram and it was their
daughter, Thelma who left the city in the turmoil of 1922 as British
occupation of the city was ending, and went to Athens where she met
Miss Hill’s father.
Notes: 1- Henry Alfred Cumberbatch
(British consul in Smyrna 1896-1908) is mentioned in the memoirs of
the famous English traveller and writer Gertrude Bell, whose relevant
section mentioning her being hosted by him and his wife in 1907 on her
expedition to a Hittite monument in the hinterland of Anatolia, is on
2- Abraham Carlton Cumberbatch’s posting may have been at the time when
like in the Ottoman lands, the British consular appointments to Russia
were controlled by the British merchant monopoly company, in this case
the Muscovy company (est. 1555), and has left a vague legacy in the
capital city, with a motley crowd of local residents, recently discovering
their ‘Scottish’ heritage and organising yearly festivals.
Miss Hill retains few contacts with the descendants of the Smyrna émigré
community in Athens, one of those is a grandson of the Warren family
who now lives in Canada.
One of the oldest British families who still live on the island of Evia
(Euboea) is the Noel-Baker
family (formerly the Bakers), whose settlement goes back to the
Ottoman rule of the islands. They are related to the Byron family and
still retain the writing desk of Lord Byron.
Note: Lord Byron died not too
far away in 1824 at Missolonghi on the island of Cephalonia, suffering
fever and exposure while engaged in the Greek struggle of independence.
It was only 145 years after his death in 1969, a memorial to Byron was
finally placed on the floor of Westminster Abbey whose authorities had
refused to allow a burial there.
Philip Noel-Baker was an MP for the city of Derby constituency during
the Second World War and many years after, and the son Francis’s wife
has recently written a book on the family history. This book written
in English has been reviewed by the Anglo-Hellenic league.
Note: From the Internet
we can access the obituary of Philip J. Noel-Baker, M.P. He was elected
to Parliament for the Labour Party in 1929 and remarkably re-elected
until 1970, when he retired from politics. He became a minister in the
Foreign Office in Clement Attlee's post-World War II government, was
named Secretary for Air in 1946, Commonwealth Secretary in 1947-1950
and Minister of Fuel and Power in 1950-1951. In addition he was the
1959 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for being a life long ardent worker
for international peace and cooperation. Born Philip Baker, (1889-1982),
he added Noel to his name when he married Irene Noel in 1915. She died
Also from the Internet
we learn, ‘Virginia [Woolf in 1906 – the eminent writer 1882-1941] and
her party made a detour from the usual tourist route to visit the island
of Evvoia (Euboea), where the Noel family had, since 1832, owned an
estate called Achmetaga, at modern Prokopion’, taken from travel notes.
Yet another Internet site, notes that Francis Noel-Baker was a regular
broadcaster from the Free Greek radio in Egypt to occupied Greece during
WWII, who later became a Labour member of Parliament in the British
House of Commons, like his father... Francis speaks fluent Greek, and
his mother was related to Lord Byron. More info from the estate site:
From family tales recollected Miss Hill is aware of waves of British
venturers who came to the then commercially rather uninviting land of
Greece, but through tenacity against overwhelming odds some made it
Unfortunately Mrs Hill has passed away in 2008 in Athens, may she rest in peace.