The first Armenians settled in Manchester in 1835 as silk merchants. By 1862, it is estimated that there were thirty Armenian businesses in the city.
The Holy Trinity Church in Upper Brook Street, Manchester was the first Armenian Church built and consecrated in Western Europe. It opened its doors to the Manchester Armenians on Easter Sunday 1870. It is the only Armenian Church outside of London. Simpad Arabian’s story, like that of many Armenian immigrants, is a heady mix of hardship, long journeys and the search for a better life. Born in 1894 in Scutari, Turkey, Simpad was the son of a wealthy jeweller, and grew up in Constantinople like many members of the affluent Armenian merchant classes. He graduated in Turkish Language and Law from Robert College, Constantinople and spoke seven languages. Unfortunately for Simpad, the culmination of his education was followed by the outbreak of the First World War. Although his brother had fought in the Turkish army, Simpad was reluctant to do the same, and instead sought employment opportunities in Egypt. Miles away from home and family, Simpad initially worked in a garage, and then for a cotton merchant business. He was very poor and survived on beans that were usually fed to horses. No doubt the raging war and the Armenian Genocide added further distress and worry to this period of intense hardship. So much so that he eventually left Egypt in 1916 for the safer shores of America, where he worked on a sewing machine and made munitions for the Steel Company of Bethlehem (based in the US). In 1918, Simpad was able to return to Constantinople and see his family. He saved up enough money to start a shipping business and later moved to Manchester. It was a city in which he would spend his remaining years. He died in 1970, and his papers were donated to the archives.
Armenian passport belonging to Simpad Arabian, issued in Paris by the Armenian delegation at the Peace Conference, 13 Nov 1920
The Armenian Ladies Association of Manchester, 1920s
English translation of the Armenian Ladies Association constitution, c.1908