The Holy Trinity was the first Armenian Church in Western Europe built as an Armenian Church and by Armenians. It opened its Victorian doors to the Manchester Armenians on Easter Sunday in 1870.
The Armenians are an ancient people whose country has been in Eastern Asia Minor, present day Turkey, for at least 3500 years. Mount Ararat of Biblical fame has been in Armenia historically, but today it is within a stone’s throw outside its borders. It is a mountainous region surrounded by powerful often-warring neighbours. Armenia accepted Christianity as the state religion in the year 301, thus becoming the first Christian country. Ever since then, this has become a bone of contention with its non-Christian neighbours.
It appears that some Armenians settled in Britain since Roman times. A further link was forged between Western Armenia (Cilicia) and France and Britain, during the Crusaders. When Richard I of England – Richard the Lionheart, married Queen Berengaria of Cyprus, the Armenian King of Cilica was his best man. Another link seems to have been created with Britain in India, where already established Armenian traders worked with and were much valued by large English companies such as the East India Company, because of their knowledge of languages and trade, during the time when India was “the jewel in the Crown of the British Empire”. Armenians have had a presence in western Asia Minor, (Constantinople/ Istanbul, Smyrna (Izmir), for many centuries. It is said that the Armenian king had taken part in the Trojan War.
Many Armenians in these Western parts were in the cotton trade, and naturally they had established connections with Manchester. “Cottonopolis”, as Manchester was nicknamed, became the obvious destination for some of these Armenians in the textile trade. The pioneers had set up agencies here in the 1830s and 1840s and by 1862 about thirty thriving Armenian firms were operating in Manchester. As they prospered their thoughts turned to building their own church.
They bought the plot of land on the corner of Upper Brook Street and Swinton Grove, raised funds from within the community and built the present Holy Trinity Armenian Church, the 150th anniversary of which will be celebrated in 4 years’ time. A resident priest occupied the Vicarage at Holy Trinity Church. The incumbent, as well as looking after the spiritual needs of the community also often produced journals etc. The Church has been used by the community, as it is today, not only as a place of worship but also as a focal point, a social centre.
In the early 20th century, because of its prosperity, the community of Manchester held a distinctive position in the Middle Eastern and European Armenian Diaspora. In recent years with the advent of the decline of the cotton trade, the Armenian community of Manchester also has somewhat diminished. Despite that however, proportionally to its numbers, the community is quite active in attending church services, Sunday schools (both eastern and western Armenian), youth activities known as ACYO and very well attended Armenian dance classes. The Churchwardens’ Committee (parish council), Ladies Association, as well as the ACYO, organise a number of events throughout the year. Last year we held our first street party in the grounds of the Church on “Vardavar” day. It is hoped that this will become an established tradition to be repeated every year.