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Armenians in London

Early Days: There is some evidence that a few Armenians had made their way to the British Isles as far back as in the 7th century. More concrete evidence of Armenian presence in Britain comes from the 13th century during the Crusades. But these cases are only isolated, and there was no presence of Armenian culture or community in Britain until the end of the 1600s and early 1700s (Taverdi).

In the late 1600s many Armenians had established themselves as competent and successful merchants who traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East. They established trade routes and commercial contacts with the British. In 1707, the Armenian printer Archbishop Thomas Vanadetsi came to London from Amsterdam to secure support of setting up an Armenian printing press in London. On his visit, he was granted an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Oxford and in return gave the Oxford library a full set of Armenian books printed by him in Amsterdam. In 1736, the two Whiston brothers, who were of Armenian origin and lived in London, translated a number of Armenian books and papers into Latin. Slowly but surely, an Armenian community was coming into existence in Britain.

The next wave of Armenian settlers came in the 1830s from Istanbul. They were mostly merchants who settled in Manchester and established trade routes for importing and exporting silk and other fibers. By 1862 there were over 30 Armenian in Manchester alone, and on March 31st, 1863 the first Armenian Mass in Britain was performed by Rev. Father Karapet Shahnazarian in a rented chapel in Manchester. Towards the end of the 1800s and early 1900s more Armenian immigrants came to Britain, most of them escaping persecution from the Ottoman government.

By 1926 the Armenian population of Great Britain had reached 550, by the 1960s it was at 4000, and by 1980s it was at 15000: an influx of Armenians from Cyprus, Lebanon, and Armenia had mostly contributed this huge rise in numbers. Today, the United Kingdom has an Armenian population of nearly 18,000, with the majority of them living in London and its boroughs.

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Taverdi, Karnik. "A History of Armenians in Britain." Center for Armenian Information and Advice. 1989. Center for Armenian Information and Advice 1 Dec. 2004

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