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In Search of Tristrams: The Uvedale Barrington Tristram Family in Turkey and the Levant
Contribution by Elizabeth Knight-Gök, great-granddaughter of Uvedale Barrington Tristram (born in Smyrna 7 July 1859).

Letters from the past

In December 2009 my brother Peter Knight discovered in the family archive given to him (after the death of our mother in 2008) by our father Denis (see attachment 1: Denis John Uvedale Knight1, and photos 1 and 2: Denis in 1942 and in Ayvalık, Turkey 2008), a bundle of letters written in careful script by two children nearly 150 years ago, and including one from their father to them when he was in Paris. The children were our great-grandfather on our father’s side, Uvedale Barrington Tristram, and our great-grand uncle Barrington Tristram. The earliest letter was dated 1866, the last 1870. At the top of some of the letters was the only indication of an address: the name Bournabat. (see photos 3a and 3b: Letter: Uvedale to Papa Feb. 1866).

In this way we discovered that our family had once lived in the then Bournabat, Smyrna, as part of the English Levantine community there.

Investigating further, Peter came across the Levantine Heritage website, and through the research done by Alex Baltazzi (see Alex’s contribution, Note 54, footnote no.9 on this website) and Rhiannon Boardman, discovered that the former family home, Tristram House, is still standing in present-day Bornova. (See photo 4: Tristram House).

Who the Tristrams were

Although our father seldom spoke very much about his family past (and now unfortunately through illness no longer can), we knew already that a number of our ancestors had been born in Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean, some in the then Smyrna, some in the then Constantinople, one in Samsun and one in Mitilini, my father himself having been born in Greece.

We also knew that that side of our family had for a long time lived in and maintained a strong connection with Turkey and the Levant, beginning in Beirut in the early 19th century.

On our paternal grandmother’s side, they were descendants of the Uvedale Price family of Herefordshire, related to the Bowes-Lyon family, and were landowners some of whom became involved in law, diplomacy and banking.

Our great-great grandfather was Uvedale Barrington Tristram (snr) (1826 – 1898) married in Smyrna in 1852 to Dermina Edwards of Smyrna (1837 – 1899). They had ten surviving children (out of 16): Barrington, Uvedale Barrington (our great-grandfather), Charles Francis, Henry Barrington, Lily, Marian, Helen, Blanche, Edith, and Caroline (our great-great aunts and uncles). (See Photos 5, 6 and 7: Tristram children in 1860’s and 70’s).

Of these children:
1) Barrington Tristram (born 1858) married Irma Barry in 1889, and they had four children: Uvedale Barrington (born in Mitilini in 1892), Roy (born in Smyrna in 1904), Evelyn (born in Constantinople 1890), and Helen (born in Smyrna 1900).

2) Uvedale Barrington, our great-grandfather, (born 1859 in Smyrna), married twice. His first marriage (in Cairo 1887) was to Marie Cecile Colucci, born in 1864, daughter of Riccardo Colucci, the Italian Consul. (See photos 8, 9 and 10: Riccardo Colucci and Marie Cecile Colucci). She was our great-grandmother. Sadly, she died in May 1888 shortly after giving birth in Cairo to our grandmother, Marie Cecile Florence, always known as May (1888 – 1969) (See photo 11: May Tristram as a baby in Cairo; and photo 12: set of photos of our great-great grandmother Anais de Regny Colucci; May as a child with her father Uvedale or possibly her uncle Barrington; and May alone). Uvedale was working in the Ottoman Bank in Cairo at that time.
Uvedale’s second marriage (in Constantinople in 1897) was to Edla Guarracino (daughter of Horace Bronte Guarracino of Constantinople) (see attachment 2: Wedding in Pera). There were four more children from this marriage: Gerald, Vivian and Phyllis (all born in Constantinople between 1899 and 1904), and Uvedale Francis Barrington Tristram (known in the family as “Uvy”), who was born much later, in March 1915, in Kingston, Surrey. (See photos 13, 14, 15 and 16: Uvedale and family 27 May 1900; May with Vivian and Phyllis in Constantinople; Uvedale Tristram with Edla and his family on house steps; Uvedale with family in garden; close-up of Uvedale Tristram. We believe all these photos were taken in Turkey, but whether in Smyrna or Constantinople we do not know).
We know that during this time, great-grandfather Uvedale was working as Chief Cashier of the Imperial Ottoman Bank in the then Constantinople. The Ottoman Bank archive catalogue confirms his being there in 1897, and on the bank notes of Mehmed Resad’s reign, we can see Uvedale Tristram’s signature right up until 1914. (See attachment 3: banknotes with Uvedale Tristram’s signature: ref. www.ottomanbanknotes.com/ottoman bank htm; and photo 17: The Ottoman Bank Headquarters in Istanbul, with a photo of staff in 1893, which may possibly include Uvedale on the far left, standing. These photos, along with some other refences to our great grandfather, are to be found in Osmanli Bankasi Tarihi, by Edhem Eldem ISBN 975-333-111-8, and our thanks are due again to Alex Baltazzi for finding this reference for us).

3) Charles Francis (born in Smyrna 1865) married Mary Guarracino (sister of Edla, above) in Constantinople in 1895. They had four children: Eric Barrington (born in Smyrna in 1896), Cecil Uvedale, Wilfred and Winifred Mary (born respectively in British North Borneo, Constantinople and Lamia, Greece, between 1900 and 1903).

4) Henry Barrington (born 1879) remained unmarried.

5) Lily (born in Smyrna 1860) married into the Whittall family (she married Alfred Whittall in Constantinople in 1885), and they had two children, Eva (born in Smyrna 1886) (see photo 18) and Enid (born in Samsoun 1900) - more information on Eva Whittall and family.

6) Marian Tristram (born 1862) married into the Cumberbatch family (she married Arthur Cumberbatch in Constantinople in 1892), and they had five children: Noel, Leslie, Thelma, Lilian and Melita (all born in Constantinople between 1894 and 1903).

7) Helen Tristram (born 1863 in Smyrna) remained unmarried.

8) Blanche Tristram (born 1872 in Paris) married Charles O’Connell Hayes of the then Port Elizabeth, Cape Colony, in 1898, and they had two children, Hilary and Kevin (born in 1901 and 1903).

9) Edith Tristram (born in Paris 1873) remained unmarried.

10) Caroline Tristram (born 1876 at St Jean de Luz, France) married John Sainsbury Gilbert of Bayswater, London in 1898, and they had five children, all born in England between 1899 and 1904: Germaine, Marjorie, Dermina, Nancy and Mary.

How long were they in Turkey?

1852, the date that our great-great grandfather married Dermina Edwards in Smyrna, seems to be the earliest verifiable date that the Tristrams were living in Smyrna. The last recorded birth of a Tristram in Smyrna is in 1904, and is that of Roy Tristram, the third generation (to my brothers, first cousins and I, our first cousin twice removed), and a son of Barrington Tristram and Irma Barry (above). This means that the Tristrams were resident in Smyrna for at least fifty years – or eighty if our great grand uncle Barrington A. Tristram (born 1858) was a resident when he died and was buried there in 1940.

The dates, birth-places and extant letters seem to indicate that of our great-grandfather’s siblings, those born between 1858 and 1863 certainly grew up in the family home in Bournabat. The younger ones may well also have done so, although they were born in France. We know from the children’s letters that their parents often travelled abroad, especially to Paris, but this does not preclude their main home having remained in Bournabat.
They also often went to Constantinople, and it seems very likely that they may have had another home there.
Many of our great-grandfather’s generation and the following one seem to have had a strong connection with Constantinople, some of them being born and/or marrying there.
As we have seen, our great-grandfather worked for many years in the Ottoman Bank there, as did, according to the Ottoman Bank archive, his brother Barrington A. Tristram who is recorded as still working there in 1920 (and whose grave is in Bornova, Izmir). Our great-grandmother, Marie Colucci, being Italian, as were both of Uvedale’s wives, the family also kept up a strong connection with Italy, especially Bologna, which was where our grandmother’s (May’s) relatives came from.(See photo 19: May in Bologna with relatives).

When did the Tristrams leave Turkey for the last time?
In a letter to my father Denis written by his aunt, Vivian Tristram, in1992, she says: “The whole family had to leave Turkey in 1914 because of the war, and after a terrible journey…”

We wonder if the whole family really did leave Smyrna, Constantinople and Turkey altogether at this point, or whether, as seems likely from the evidence, at least some remained. We do know for certain that if they left, several including Barrington and Roy, returned later.
Barrington was still working at the Ottoman Bank in Constantinople 1920, according to their archive, and died in Turkey 1940, his grave being in Izmir in the Anglican Cemetery (see below).
We know from Andrew Mango that Roy was working with him in Ankara at the British Embassy as assistant Press Attache between 1945 and 47. (See photo 20: Roy Tristram c.1945 at Etimesgut, Ankara, provided courtesy of Andrew Mango, and the reference to Roy in Andrew Mango’s Recollections pages on the Levantine Heritage website: Story of a Community).
Our grandmother May Tristram was also to return to Turkey in 1923 with her husband William Lowry Craig Knight, (see photos 21 and 22) who immediately after the Lausanne Treaty was appointed British Consul in Trabzon and later in Istanbul. (see attachments 4 and 5: WLC Knight in Trabzon: in Turkish with English translation). This meant that our father, Denis, and his siblings Brendan, Rosemary and Monica, all spent most of their childhood in Turkey and Greece (and kept idyllic memories of it). (See attachments 6: In the Spring of 1920, by Rosemary Currey nee Knight; 7: Memories of the Tristram Family in Turkey by Monica Douglas nee Knight, and 8: The Black Sea: poem by Denis Knight).

And now…

In trying to discover more about this side of our family, we have, with the help of the Levantine Heritage website and its researchers, had some adventures and come across some other interesting details.

One avenue was through the researcher Eda Kaçar Özmutaf, who found the newspaper report of our great-grandfather’s wedding to Edla Guarracino in Pera in 1897. We thank her for this.
Another was through the writer and contributor to this website, Andrew Mango, who sent us some very interesting personal reminiscences and photos of our cousin Roy Tristram, for which we thank him.
Our excitement about the search inspired my cousin Frances (daughter of Rosemary) and me to spend a sunny week in spring-time this year visiting the old former estate of the early Uvedale Prices in Yazor, Hereford, and the ancient little church as well as the family chapel where they are buried. (See photos 23, 24 and 25: Yazor Church commemorative plaques and burial sarcophagi of Uvedale Price family).

And in May 2010 my brother Pete, sister-in-law Jo, my husband Erkan and myself went to Izmir to see again the former family home in Bornova, and also to track down in the Anglican Cemetery the two Tristrams who, we had learnt, - from the list of burials provided on the website - had their graves there.
After what seemed an age of fruitless searching in the cemetery, it was Jo who, scraping away with her foot the debris of years covering a flat burial stone, deciphered the name Tristram faintly engraved. The cemetery keeper and his son rushed to find water and broom with which to clean the stone, and the names and details were suddenly revealed sharply as if by alchemy. Buried in one grave were: our great-great-great grandmother, Caroline Tristram, nee Price (1790 – 1862), and our great grand uncle, Barrington A. Tristram (1858 – 1940). We see there is an eighty-year span between their deaths. We know Barrington was born and lived in Smyrna, but of Caroline’s presence and life there we know almost nothing. Especially interesting to us was to learn that as late as 1940 at least one Tristram, Barrington, was still resident in Izmir – or had in any event chosen to be buried there.
We believe that we were possibly the first family members for the last seventy years to visit the graves, or even to recall that they were there. It felt to us a strange and moving moment. We cut an oleander blossom and laid it there, in memory of and as a message to the people laid to rest there and to a past we had thought almost lost to us.
(see photos 26 and 27: at the grave of Tristrams in Bornova Anglican Cemetery, Izmir).

Elizabeth Knight-Gok (copyright)
October 2010.

1- Denis Knight was born in Volos, Greece, in 1921. As the second son* of the British Consul in Turkey he became accustomed to travel early in life, his education being in England whilst his parents lived abroad. Shortly after gaining his degree at Christ’s College Cambridge, he enlisted in the 44th Royal Tank Regiment, and as a ‘Desert Rat’ saw frontline action from Egypt to Berlin.
After the war he became a smallholder on River Common, near Petworth in West Sussex, farming in accordance with the principles of William Cobbett, the 19th century radical for whom he has held a lifelong empathy. His collection of Cobbett’s writings on Ireland was published by Lawrence and Wishart in 1987. Numerous poems of his have also appeared in newspapers, journals and anthologies over the past forty years.*
Denis married Nora Dalton, painter, (1922 - 2008) in 1942. They had four sons and a daughter, and Denis now (in 2010) lives in South Brent, Devon, near his surviving sister Monica.
*Denis’s siblings were: Brendan, Rosemary and Monica: between them they had seven children.
*Denis’s publications include:
Cobbett in Ireland: A Warning to England [Cobbett's writings edited by Denis Knight]; ISBN-13: 978-0853155966
Days in Occitania; ISBN-13: 978-1846851131
Poems from the Black Sea: An Anthology; ISBN-13: 978-0595132492
River Common: Poems by Denis Knight; ISBN-13: 978-0953408900
Poems for Liz: Alice Says No; ISBN-13: 978-0953408917
High Cries were Felled and a Pure Change Happened: A Review of Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Haw Lantern’ [review]; # ASIN: B0006DM1WG return to main text

 Note: In order to assist Ms Knight-Gök in her quest to discover more about her Levantine ancestors, please contact her on: eknightgok[at]yahoo.com.tr

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