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The Whittall dynasty

One hundred and ninety years after the young Charlton Whittall first opened for business in Izmir, the members of this great dynasty are dispersed throughout the world. In June 359 descendants gathered at a reunion in London to celebrate the one thing that still inspires them all: their memories of life in Turkey. By David Barchard

  • Charlton Whittall and his wife, Magdaleine Giraud, the accomplished daughter of a French merchant who had set up in Izmir in 1767 – the first of many alliances between the families

It was the summer of 1809. Europe was preoccupied with Napoleon, while in the Ottoman Empire the 24-year-old Mahmut II, at the end of his first year on the throne, struggled to consolidate his grip on power.

Against this backdrop a 19-year-old Englishman, Charlton Whittall, arrived in Izmir. Just out of his apprenticeship, Whittall was there to represent the Liverpool merchant company of Richard Foster Breed and Co, shipping madder root, valonea, figs, raisins, Bursa silk, olive oil and wheat to England, and importing manufactured goods from Manchester and Liverpool.

Charlton Whittall and his brother James (who joined him in 1817), though they were not to know it, were also founding the Levant’s largest English merchant dynasty. As sultans and kings and queens of England came and went, along with their viziers, ambassadors and prime ministers, the Whittalls flourished in both Izmir and Istanbul.

Some lived in and around the Big House, at Bournobat (now Bornova), just outside Izmir. Another branch, headed by Charlton’s grandson, Sir James Whittall, settled in Istanbul in 1873. This offshoot lived in the Whittall compound in Moda, where their gardens were notable as the single spot in Turkey where gooseberries grew. Another botanical link with the family is the wild tulip which grows in the hills around Izmir and is known in horticultural circles as the whittallii tulip.

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  • The Grand Parade

    When Ottoman sultans wanted to outshine European monarchs by the end of the sixteenth century they were choosing elaborate entertainments as their ammunition rather than solemn victory processions. In the second article in her series on East-West rivalry, Christine Thomson focuses on the Istanbul festivities of 1582, a spectacular street party lasting almost two months.


  • A Hard Day’s Sailing

    Some take the hard dusty route to the Mediterranean’s ancient sites. Christian Tyler approached them the hedonist’s way: cruising on a gulet along some of the most breathtaking coastline in the world.


  • Whistling Down the Wind

    Two isolated villages share an Ancient way of communicating across mountainous ravines. Andriëtte Stathi-Schoorel captures the last echoes in Greece and Turkey In Kuşköy (Bird Village), in the Eastern Black Sea Mountains, the ancient art of whistling is still taught to schoolchildren. It is in these very mountains, south of Trabzon, that Xenophon came upon a similar use of whistling nearly 2500 years ago. Only five communities in the world are known to share the ability to whistle their speech.

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  • Carpet Clues

    An Egyptian rubbish heap reveals its buried treasure, mysterious birds deceive the eye, and Chinese clouds have silver linings. Philippa Scott continues her guide to the world of rug collecting

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Issue 18, 1999 The Ottoman Riviera
£8.00 / $11.16 / 45.64 TL
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