Anglican Church & British Seamen’s Institute at the Mouths of the Danube

The first Anglican church on Romanian territory and the British Seamen's Institute in 1890s - 1900s Sulina, a port located at the mouths of the Danube. (old postcards, Valentin Mandache collection)

I am a Romanian born British citizen and feel very patriotic about my adoptive country, being always keen to bring to the fore old traces of British involvement in the region where Romania is located. These go back a very long time indeed, ever since the Roman conquest of Dacia in 106 CE when legions and auxiliaries from the British Isles were among the largest army ever assembled in Europe until the WWI (according to Julian Bennett the foremost expert on Emperor Trajan, the commander of this army), to conquer the kingdom of the ancient Dacians, the ancestors of today Romanians (situation similar with how the French relate to the ancient Gauls and their conquest by Caesar). Modern British involvement in the region became established in late 1840s once the Danube and the Black Sea straits were gradually open to international navigation from the control of the Ottoman Empire. Sailing ships flying the Union Jack were entering the Danube though Sulina from the Black Sea in order to upload, from the lower Danube ports upstream, the vast quantities of grains produced by the plains of Wallachia and Moldova and bring them to the masses of industrialised Britain and also for the relief of the Great Irish Famine, tragedy which was taking place at that time. As a result, the Romanian state and grain traders obtained important revenues from those exports in the second part of the c19th, a fact which made possible the emergence throughout the country of the the picturesque provincial architecture that I call the “Little Paris” style, inspired from the fashionable French styles of the time. Sulina grew rapidly in importance as a transit port, a fact which made feasible the establishment there of an Anglican church and in the later part of the c19th of a British Seamen’s Institute attached to the church in order to attend to the needs and troubles of the increasing number of sailors from Britain who transited this port. The Anglican church in Sulina is the oldest established on the Romanian territory; there is another one in Bucharest, which was the only official one functioning behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War (see my video about this particular building here). The montage above, formed by the two old postcard from my collection, shows in the upper image the church within the 1890s urban set up of Sulina (the red circled building), with sailing ships moored at the docks, while in the lower image is a close up of the church together with the building of the Institute, a postcard which probably dates from early 1900s. The architecture is typically late Victorian Gothic and one can also see a bit of mock Tudor half timbered gables on the Institute’s building. The British community and activity has now long gone from Sulina, but the church building and its British cemetery is still present. I am planning a trip to the location at the first available opportunity to investigate the situation of these edifices and other remnants for a future article on this blog.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.