Henry Adrian Churchill

Henry Adrian Churchill CB[1] (16 September 1828 – 12 July 1886) was an archaeologist of ancient Mesopotamia and British diplomat.

Family and early life

Henry was born in Adrianople (modern day Edirne) in Turkish Thrace, the son of William Nosworthy Churchill. His second name was derived from his place of birth. His father was fluent in Turkish and could read the Ottoman Turkish script and worked in Constantinople (now Istanbul) as editor of the tr:Ceride-i Havadis newspaper.[2] His mother Beatrix (née Belhomme) was the daughter of a French merchant who had settled in Turkey.[2]

He married Maria Braniefska (b. Warsaw 1839? – d. Pará, Brazil 1905) with whom he had 7 children.

Four of his five sons, Harry Lionel (1860–1924), Sidney John Alexander (1862–1921), William Algernon (1865–1947), and George Percy (1877-?) followed him into the diplomatic service.


In 1837, when aged nine, his father sent him to England to attend boarding schools in Ewell and then Kentish Town, where he learnt English and mathematics. In 1841 he went to Louis Le Grand College in Paris where he studied languages, mathematics, and art. In 1846 he returned to Constantinople aged 18.


In 1848 at the age of 20 he began his career in the service of the Crown by assisting the British Commission for the Delimitation of the Turco-Persian Boundary as part of the 1849–52 Turco-Persian Frontier Commission.[3] While serving in the frontier commission, along with friend and fellow archaeologist William Loftus and a detachment of troops, he rode across the desert and marshes of Chaldaea from the Euphrates to the lower Tigris, observing remains as they went.

From 1850-52 he was Secretary and Interpreter to the Commission, and in 1852 was appointed 3rd Paid Attaché in Teheran.[4]

In 1854 he was attached to the staff of Major General Sir William Fenwick Williams. He was able to speak and read Arabic and acted as translator to Colonel Atwell Lake.[5] As Secretary and Interpreter on the Staff of the British Commissioner with the Turkish Army in Asia, he took part in the defence of Kars, and after its capitulation to General Mouravieff in November 1855 was for a time a prisoner of the Russians.[2]

When General Williams began to engage transport mules and horses, we got a large amount of corn and rice sent to Kars. Mr Churchill, the General's secretary, worked hard at this department; and never were his practical, business-like talents more needed, or more effectively exercised. I desire particularly to call attention to the important services rendered by the above-named gentleman in this department, and at this critical period.
Humphry Sandwith MD, A Narrative of the Siege of Kars[6]
My secretary, Mr. Churchill, an attaché of Her Majesty's mission in Persia; he directed the fire of a battery throughout the action, and caused the enemy great loss.
Colonel Atwell Lake, Kars and our captivity in Russia.[7]

In 1856 at the age of 30 he was appointed British Consul in Sarajevo, Bosnia (1856),[4] Jassy, Romania (1858),[8] then Consul-General in Moldavia (1859),[9] Syria (1862),[10] Algeria (1863),[11] and Consul in Zanzibar,[12] Resht, Persia (1875),[12] and Palermo (1879)[13] where he died in office in 1886 aged 58.[2]

In 1870 he wrote an article on cholera in Zanzibar, held in the archives of The Royal Geographic Society in London.[14] He also corresponded with scientists about the possible use of a certain Chinese bird to reduce the swarms of mainland Tsetse flies.[15]

He acted as mentor for John Kirk, who served as his surgeon and Vice-Consul during those years and succeeded him as Consul.[15]

A younger brother William was a proficient artist and while visiting him at the British Consulate in Zanzibar in the late 1860s captured a wide range of scenes and people of contemporary Zanzibar.[15] William subsequently became Consul in Mozambique and published an account of his visit to the Sugar-Loaf Mountain in Mozambique.[16]



External links

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