The Armenians in Singapore have been a small but tightly knit community for some time. The 1824 census recorded only 16 members, which is correct. Despite their small numbers, several Armenians have made important contributions to Singapore’s history.
After the Armenians had been conducting church services in rented space for a while, they decided to build their own church in 1827. The Armenian community had been given a piece of property on Hill Street, where they would construct the region’s oldest church, Saint Gregory.
They hired George Drumgoole Coleman, Singapore’s first architect, to create and erect the church. At a cost of 5,000 Spanish dollars, the structure was completed in 1836. The Armenian Church was widely regarded as one of Coleman’s masterpieces, as it was one of the first buildings in Singapore.
In 1847, the old bell tower at the Armenian Church was replaced with a square tower, which was then followed by the current spire in 1853. The Armenian Church, Singapore’s first church to be lit by electricity in 1909, now boasts fans and electric lights.
The tombstones of renowned Armenian figures are located in the Memorial Garden on the church grounds. The gravestones were lifted from the Christian cemetery in Bukit Timah and Bidadari Cemetery in 1988, then taken from there.
Tombstones of members of the Sarkies family who laid the groundwork for Singapore’s Raffles Hotel, as well as a founder of Singapore’s Catchick Moses, who established what became The Straits Times in 1845, maybe seen here. It was a hand-operated press that printed it first. He sold it one year later.
On the church grounds is a memorial garden where a number of tombstones of prominent Armenians like the Sarkies family and Catchik Moses can be found.
Agnes Joaquim, for example, is regarded as the first hybrid orchid in Singapore and one of the most well-known Armenians. She succeeded in crossing the Vanda Hookeriana and Vanda Teres to create the Vanda Miss Joaquim. On 15 April 1981, the Vanda Miss Joaquim was chosen as Singapore’s national flower to represent Singapore’s distinctiveness and hybrid culture. Singapore is the only country to have a hybrid as its national flower, having done so since 1985.
The Armenians in Singapore have given us a 550-year-old church to behold; the national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim; and The Straits Times, our national English broadsheet. That’s quite an impressive resume.