Charles Besley Gribble - first minister of St Paul's Church for Seamen (1847-58)

Gribble was a member of a nautical family, from Barnstaple in Devon, with Cornish connections as well.

His father
also named Charles Besley Gribble (1774-1831), was a captain in the Honourable East India Company, and later a Commander of the Fleet. He met Napoleon on St Helena in 1816. Earlier in his career, in the wake of the French Revolution, he was one of the signatories of this letter (Burke & Dodsley's Annual Register vol 50 (1820) p287) to a Chinese official in Quang-tong [Guangdong], and Quang-si [now Guangxi, an autonomous region], near present-day Hong Kong, explaining that their purpose was trade and not belligerence:

To his Excellency the Viceroy of Quang-tong and Quang-si

May it please your Excellency,

WE the undersigned, commanders of the hon. English East-India company's ships at Whampoa, for ourselves, our officers, and our men, have the exalted honour to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency's most gracious letter, delivered to us on French Island, on the 4th Dec. 1808, by the two mandarins, whom we are informed it was your condescending pleasure to send for that purpose. Our object in visiting this country is purely commerce, to continue in the same manner that friendlyand useful intercourse which has existed for centuries, and now become, from its magnitude, of the very first importance to both our vast empires. We are taught in our own country, that obedience to our laws is the first essential to the well-being of the state; the same principle must apply to all countries, and we are therefore ordered, and endeavour, to venerate and obey yours; but such is the nature of our own laws and constitution, that we dare not, even in a foreign country, depart from allegiance to our own country, nor to those who are dignified with its most exalted representation. We understand that our admiral, who is an officer of high rank, at the request of the Portuguese, landed some troops at Macoa, to help them to defend it, against attacks from the French. This wicked nation, ever since they murdered their sovereign, have waged war upon all nations within their reach, and we understand are now marching by land to make war upon the celestial empire, as the British navy prevent them by sea. We, of course, wish to have no concern with any disturbances in the celestial empire, and we therefore most humbly implore your excellency to order the trade to be opened, that we may thereby find employment in the quiet habits of industry, which we conceive would prevent our services being required for other purposes, but which, if called for, our laws and our honour, would compel us to obey, whatever might be the consequences. With sentiments of the most profound veneration, and prayers for your excellency's welfare, we beg leave to subscribe our names.

Hon. Comp.'s Ship Elphinstone, Whampoa, 7th Dec. 1808.


He later became the the captain, part-owner and 'ship's husband' of the vessel Princess Charlotte of Wales, and after his death a Chancery case was unsuccessfully brought by the other owners against the bank with which he had deposited funds, backed by freight warrants (some of which he lent to his son Henry, also of the East India Company). The case, Sims v. Bond (1833) 5 Barnewall & Adolphus 389, and Lord Chief Justice Denman's remarks to the effect that a bank deposit is to be treated as loan, and cannot be recovered by others unless they can prove that the depositor was acting as an agent of the partnership, is still quoted in books on contract and partnership law.

Captain Gribble ('of Calcutta and Madras' – some of his papers are deposited at the National Archives in Kew) retired to Barnstaple in 1828, where he was made a 'Common Councilman'. According to a relative Joseph Besley Gribble (Memorials of Barnstaple 1830, p356) this was the first appointment of a nonconformist, in the face of the provision that None to be admitted a free Burgess, but those that are comformable to Church and State, and shall take the oaths of allegiance and supremacie at the time of such their admittance (a rule which he believed was originally intended to exclude Roman Catholics). However, if he was indeed a nonconformist, many of his descendants embraced the Church of England.

Early career
The Captain's namesake son Charles Besley Gribble (1807-1878) studied at Christ's College Cambridge and was ordained deacon in 1839 by the Bishop of Lincoln, to serve as Curate of Olney in Bucks (in those days part of that huge, as yet undivided, diocese). Here in 1841 he preached a sermon, which was published, Christ Glorified. When he visited on his return from Canada in 1845, they produced a pamphlet The Happy Meeting,  with a verse beginning When Christian friends asunder part, Think how it grieves them to the heart - hardly up to the standard of the famous Olney Hymns of Cowper and Newton (including Amazing grace).

In 1841 he became a missionary with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) to serve in the diocese of Toronto, and went first to Lake Erie, then to Dunnville, near Niagara Falls and the American border, working with the Revd Bold Cudmore Hill, 'Grand River Missionary'. A church was built a few years after his departure, and the present church [right] in 1887.

He was an Evangelical, opposed to Tractarianism and taking the low church view in the controversies of the day (and is listed as such by Curtis Fahey in In His Name: The Anglican Experience in Upper Canada, 1971-1854 (1991) p281). In a letter of 1 April 1842 [in SPG archives], in connection with the founding of Trinity College [now part of the University of Toronto] he wrote Our principles teach men to be good subjects on religious grounds, the government will therefore do right to help forward our principles. And they will therefore do what is expedient, for the principles of the church, where followed up by a faithful clergyman, beget humility and submission, order and peace. Here is a very forthright tract delivered to local residents - what would they have made of it? - castigating them for their wicked ways; interestingly, 'Sunday fishing' is first on the list!

Although he was an SPG man, it is recorded in the archives of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) that he brought to Christ John Bowen, who grew up on a farm in a wild and remote part of Canada and later became bishop of Sierra Leone. However, as this link shows, Bowen was no rustic; he graduated from Trinity College Dublin as Doctor of Laws, and was a man of independent fortune; his seat is Milton House, Pembrokeshire, where he has considerable property. Unmarried, he funded CMS expeditions to the Middle East at his own expense.

Gribble returned from Canada in 1845 and served for two years as curate of St Jude's English Church in Glasgow. Charles Popham Miles, formerly chaplain of the Sailors' Home in Dock Street, was by then the incumbent there, so it was no coincidence that Gribble became the first minister of St Paul's Church for Seamen here. He thus became one of the quartet of evangelical clergy serving in this area who were in conflict with the Scottish Episcopal Church (the others were Sir William Dunbar, Alphonsus Rose and Charles Popham Miles): he published The Mistake Corrected (Bryce 1848), an extended letter to the Rev Dr Champneys, headmaster of the Collegiate School, Glasgow on the position of the English clergy in Scotland.

St Paul's 1847-58

Gribble, by now a widower, married Catherine Jackson, daughter of a Commissioner of the East India Company, in Cornwall in 1848. While at St Paul's he co-operated with the London City Mission, a non-denominational agency founded by David Nasmith in 1835 of which other Anglican clergy were suspicious. He was a committee member of the National Society for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, founded in 1824 (now the RNLI), and a member of the British & Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and published a pamphlet Slavery a Sin; or Aunt Phillis' Cabin Reviewed (Nisbet 1852). (The reference is to a pro-slavery novel of that name by Mary Eastman, extolling the saintliness of the 'black mammy' figure and the graciousness of white slave owners, and written in response to Harriet Beecher Stowe's hugely-influential Uncle Tom's Cabin).

In the same year he published a sermon, preached at St Paul's, The Burning of the Amazon, or Divine and Human Sympathy after a new Royal Mail steamship was destroyed by fire off the Scilly Isles, with great loss of life.

Lower Life in London, by George Perkins (1854) describes the lives of individuals in the Well Street area. On one occasion Gribble cared for two kidnapped sailors from the Friendly Islands, as this report from the Daily Southern Cross (vol V, issue 248 of 13 November 1849, page 2) reports:

There are few things of which, as a nation, we ought to be more desirous than of maintaining our fair fame amongst foreign countries for humanity and justice. Any act of cruelty committed under shelter of the British flag reflects dishonour upon the whole country, and no efforts ought to be spared to bring the perpetrators of it to punishment, and to cause all possible reparation to be made to the injured parties. The weaker and more defenceless the people against whom any act of cruelty has been practised, the more anxious ought we to be to make the necessary amends. The following particulars of a case of kidnapping, which took place in the South Seas some time since, we take from a letter which appeared in The Times. As the letter bears the signature of the chaplain and incumbent of St. Paul's Church for Seamen, there can, of course, be no doubt with respect to its authenticity.

There are now, says the writer, in the Sailors' Home, Well-street, two natives of Tongataboo [right], and one of the Friendly Islands, and the circumstances under which they have come to that institution are such as reflect shame and horror on our mercantile system. It appears, from their own narration, that in the winter of 1846-7 a South Sea whaler, named the 'Will Watch,' called at Tongataboo for provisions and refreshments, and on the evening of her departure her captain decoyed on board, and forcibly detained, one cf those islanders, with the intention of employing his services in the whaling expedition. The ship weighed and stood out to sea. In the morning she was still in the offing, becalmed. The other islander, who, from his acquaintance with our language, acted as interpreter to ships touching at the islands, was strongly moved by the distress of the wife and family of the kidnapped man, and hastened out in his canoe to the vessel, in the hope of prevailing on the captain to restore the man. After a long pull he gained the ship, but was refused permission to come on board. At length he boarded her, and appealed to the captain on behalf of his friend. Soon a breeze sprung up, and the interpreter, despairing of recovering the captive, and in a tumult of enthusiasm and grief, forgetting his own wife and two children in the present wretchedness of his friend, said to the captain, 'You take that man; he no speak English. Suppose he get sick, he die; no one care for that man; you write my name down; you take me.' The captain then took both men off, promising them a share in the profits, and to restore them in 4 months to their own island. After the lapse of 8 months, instead of bringing them back to their own island, the captain landed them at a place called Saletabo, where he left them. After enduring great privation thy were at length taken on board an English ship, the George Holme, and landed in England, since which time they have been in the Sailors' Home.

It appears that the captain who first decoyed the men, has since died. We trust, however, that the owner of the vessel — stated to be Mr. Lyall, of Broad-street — will do something to relieve the unfortunate men, and to recompense them to some extent for the injuries which they have suffered.

The writer of the letter states that Messrs. Lyall and Sturge — the latter the owner of the vessel which brought the men to England — have already contributed the sum required to send the poor men back to Auckland, in New Zealand. They ought not, however, to be permitted to go back empty handed. Some greater compensation is due to them for the injustice practised towards them than a mere free passage to their native land.

Constantinople 1858-78

Gribble left St Paul's to become Embassy Chaplain in Constantinople [pictured 1890 and early 20th century], where he served until his death off Malta in 1878. He was subsequently appointed a Canon of Gibraltar (at that time the titular base of Anglican mission in Europe). In 1870 there was a disastrous fire at the Embassy.

Sustaining the Protestant Christian presence in Turkey, particularly in the capital city, became important in the wake of the Crimean War, and much effort was put into building good relationships, both for the sake of the expatriate community and because of the symbolic significance of the area for Christian mission ancient and modern. The Chaplain was soon to become involved in delicate negotiations with the Turkish authorities, as this report by the Evangelical Alliance, in Evangelical Christendom (1861), p671, shows:

We have been requested to publish the following statement:—
The financial affairs of the Protestant civil community of Turkey having been for some time in an embarrassed condition, a committee was recently appointed by its representatives to consider in what way a remedy could be found, and especially to endeavour, by a full statement of the circumstances, to enlist the sympathies of Protestant Christians of all parts of the world. With this view, the committee requested the presence in the Protestant Chancery of all the Protestant chaplains, missionaries, and ministers in Constantinople, to hear a statement of the facts. The meeting was held on September 2nd, when the following parties were present to meet the Vekeel, or representative, Stepan Effendi, and the committee — viz.: Rev. Charles B. Gribble, Chaplain to the British Embassy; Rev. Dr. Riggs, American Board; Rev. Alexander Thomson, Agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society; Rev. Alexander Tomory, Free Church of Scotland; Rev. W. Marcussohn, Church of Scotland; Rev. Mr. Weakly, Church Missionary Society; Rev. Mr. Tien and M
r. E. Williams, Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; Mr. P. O. Flaherty, Free Church of Scotland; and the members of the native committee, including the Rev. Pastor Simon Eutujian.

Having called upon the Rev. C. B. Gribble to open the proceedings with prayer, the Vekeel briefly addressed the meeting in Armenian, the Secretary translating his remarks to the following effect.

Rev. Sirs, — We have invited you here today for the consideration of a matter of great importance; and I feel much obliged to each one of you for your kind acceptance of our invitation. The matter to be proposed to your consideration is the present financial state of the Chancery of the native Protestant community, over which I preside. I will, gentlemen, briefly explain how it is that, although this Chancery is wholly a civil establishment, yet the sole reason for its existence is the profession of the Protestant religion by subjects of this empire. On account of the particular form of Government exercised in this country, the professors of each different religion must be represented at the Sublime Porte by a separate president, otherwise they cannot enjoy any civil or religious right. According to this principle of the Turkish Government, the Protestant Chancery stands here to represent the Protestant religion, and to see that all professors of that religion, of whatever nationality they may be, fully enjoy all the religious and civil rights and privileges bestowed by the Government. Fifteen years ago no one could profess Protestantism without incurring open persecution from the chiefs of the Rayah communities, whether the Greek or Armenian Patriarch, or the Jewish Rabbi; now it is not so. Anybody may now profess Evangelical Christianity, and enjoy full protection.

Our Chancery spends, for its four officers, about 60,000 piastres annually; and, as the committee appointed to inquire into the financial state of the Chancery will represent to you, our community can at present hardly contribute the half of this sum. For the other half, which is absolutely necessary in order to maintain the Chancery, we have no other resource to look to but the Protestant Christian churches — our co-religionists — who are, we believe, greatly interested in the Protestant movement going on in this country. We have, therefore, invited you here as representatives of almost the whole Protestant Christian world; and being confident that you will sympathise with our difficulties, and he interested in this matter. We shall now present the facts of the case to your kind consideration.

The Secretary was then directed to read the statement prepared by the committee, the substance of which may be briefly expressed as follows:

The office of the Protestant Vekeel, or president, is the only regular and recognised means of communication between the Turkish government and the Protestant community; the only means by which a Protestant can be protected in case of molestation or encroachment on his rights and privileges; in a word, but for its existence, nobody could in this land profess Evangelical Christianity, and enjoy the civil and religious privileges granted by the Sultan to his Christian subjects. This institution, however, unavoidably requires, and that with the strictest economy, au annual expenditure of 60,000 piastres, or less than 500l. The Protestant community, numbering at present rather more than 7,000 souls, of whom 1,600 or 1,000 may be liable to assessment, cannot, in its present circumstances, possibly raise the whole of the required revenue; because, first, they are generally poor. Secondly, they have, as a civil community, a great deal to expend for the transaction of their local civil affairs, in more than 120 places, which was unnecessary till their separation from their old communities. Again, they have a great deal to expend for religious and educational purposes, in which they are always prone to be considerably more interested. For instance, in Marash the Protestant community contributed, in 1850, 11,500 piastres for religious purposes alone, while for the Chancery they sent only 2,500 piastres. Besides these expenses, the people have to pay three different taxes to the Government, the amount of which is two or three times more than all their civil and religious and educational expenses put together. And once more, those who are indirectly persecuted by being deprived of employment, or being forsaken by their friends, for their adherence to Protestantism, must necessarily depend for help on the charity of their brethren — a not unfrequent occurrence. Taking into consideration these and other similar causes, we think that the inadequate support extended to the Chancery does not arise from any reluctance on the part of our people to perform their duty, but from their present circumstances, a change of which would soon enable them to support this establishment for themselves. Now, however, with a balance of 25,000 piastres already against the office, and with the certainty that the end of the year will exhibit a deficiency of 30,000 more, the Board of Representatives of the Protestant community is placed in a condition of painful embarrassment. 

Now, gentlemen, in coming to you to ask your advice in these, our difficulties, we feel convinced that you take as much interest in the existence and good standing of this Chancery as we ourselves do. And as Protestantism, in this country, still requires missionary sympathy and political protection, and as the Chancery is the means not only of protecting the personal interests of Protestants, but also Protestantism itself, we think it claims the earnest consideration and support of all who are desirous of seeing that religion take a firm stand in this great empire. We think the societies you represent will not refuse to help, and specially if they know that to have Protestantism properly represented at the Sublime Porte will greatly facilitate all missionary movements here. We believe that from year to year the revenue of the community will increase, and not very long hence it will be large enough to keep the Vekeel office in thorough working order. But, in the meantime, what is to be done? Can we look to you for the making up of the amount required? or if not, what advice would you offer in a matter which places us in such perplexity?

It was then suggested that, as the substance of the facts now communicated had been stated by members of the American Mission some months ago to several of the missionaries present, and a short statement of them furnished for the purpose of being transmitted to several of the missionary societies in Britain and America, some report might possibly be now given of the result of that movement. In reply, the Rev. Mr. Weakly stated that on the personal application of Dr. Pfander, the committee of the Church Missionary Society had agreed to give 50l., on condition that the London Jews' Society, the Turkish Missions Aid Society, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, should agree to give a similar sum; that application had accordingly been made to each of those societies, but that the only answer received had been from the Turkish Missions-Aid Society, and was to the effect that they were prepared to sanction the application of 50l. to this object out of the funds they transmitted to Turkey, provided such a course should be approved of by the American missionaries there. As it did not appear that the matter had ever been formally proposed to the American Mission, it was arranged that Dr. Riggs should take steps for that purpose, while the Rev. Mr. Gribble undertook to apply to the committee of the London Jews' Society, in the absence of any missionary from that body now in this city. Mr. Tien reported that the Rev. Mr. Curtis had applied twice to the committee of the Propagation Society, but without receiving any reply; while Mr. Tomory stated that the Free Church Jewish Committee had given 10l. last year, and were prepared to make a similar grant for this year.

Mr. Thomson then stated that though, from the peculiar constitution of Bible societies, it had not been thought advisable to apply to either the British and Foreign, or to the American Bible Society, for aid towards this object, he was sure it would command the sympathies of all the true friends of those institutions. He himself had always regarded the Protestant Chancery with peculiar interest, not only for the sake of his excellent friend, the Vekeel, who presided over it, but as the material embodiment of the religious liberty which, through God's blessing, had been achieved for this country, chiefly through the influence of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, but perhaps scarcely less so through the high moral character of the Protestant Armenians themselves, and the self-sacrificing constancy with which many of them had submitted to pecuniary losses in defence of their principles. To allow it to collapse would be to relinquish nearly all that had been gained by twenty years of labour, suffering, and representation to the Government, would reduce the Protestant Rayahs to their former bondage under ecclesiastical authorities, and deprive them of the only recognised medium of intercourse with the Government in any case of persecution that might unhappily arise in time to come. On all these grounds, and further, as it admitted accessions from every class and race of the subjects of the empire, whether originally Armenians, Greeks, Jews, or of any other race, he thought the maintenance of the civil organization of the Protestant community an object in which every society wae interested which was engaged in seeking the evangelization of this country. Mr. O' Flaherty and Mr. Tomory followed. The latter illustrated the practical value of the Chancery, by relating how it had shielded more than one Jewish inquirer from being immured in the madhouse by the Spanish Hacham-Bashi, or Chief Rabbi.

After some conversation, the following resolution was moved by the Rev. Alexander Thomson, seconded by the Rev. C. B. Gribble, and unanimously agreed to, viz. : — This meeting, having heard the statement of the committee of the Protestant civil community, and being convinced that the maintenance of the Protestant Chancery is essential to the protection of the civil and religious rights and privileges of the Protestants of Turkey, as well as satisfied that it is conducted with all possible economy, Resolved, that the brethren here present do recommend it to the cordial support of the various religious bodies with which they are connected, and that until such time as the native Protestants shall be in circumstances to meet its expenses without foreign aid.

(Signed) STEFAN SEROPIAN, Vekeel, President.
A. GHAZAROS BOGHOSIAN, Secretary to the Protestant Chancery.

In 1858 work began on a Memorial Church, just  down the hill from the Embassy Chapel, on land given by the Sultan.  It took some years to complete, because of disputes and the nature of the soil. Mrs C.F. Alexander wrote a poem On the Laying of the First Stone of the Memorial Church at Constantinople by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, 19 October 1858; a report of his speech said

The religious services on the occasion were conducted by the Rev. C. B. Gribble, Chaplain to the Ambassador, and by the Rev. G. C. Curtis, Chaplain of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The following speech was delivered by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. After some preliminary remarks, he said : —

Its site was selected with reference to its object as a memorial, and we have only to look to the noble prospect now stretched beneath our eyes, in order to appreciate its fitness. A situation corresponding with the required conditions was not to be obtained without difficulty. It was thought, and justly thought, desirable that the sacred edifice should be prominently visible from the sea, that it should be easily accessible to the British residents of Galata, as well as to those who occasionally frequented that part of the harbour, and that it should at the same time be not inconveniently removed from the houses of our principal merchants in Pera. It was also to be borne in mind that the intended building would be of larger dimensions than those of any Protestant — certainly of any Anglican — place of worship hitherto erected in this neighbourhood. The increased demand and high value of ground for building brought the Turkish quarters into requisition, and, finally, there alone could the necessary site be found. The new church, as you perceive, will be in immediate contiguity with a mosque, and that unusual, if not unprecedented, circumstance is at once a proof of the difficulty and a sign of progress in the advancement of liberal ideas. We may now anticipate the time, apparently near at hand, when the British mariner, in approaching Constantinople from the south, will recognise among its first objects the tower of his country's church, and, welcomed by its appearance, lose the feelings of a stranger in the most endearing recollections.

We may hope that his thoughts will rise in grateful acknowledgement to those who have subscribed the funds for its construction; to our gracious Sovereign, who heads their list with habitual benevolence; to her ally, the Sultan, who granted the site on which we are assembled; to those who, in various ways, have aided the progress of the work; and, above all, to that Great Being on whose protection and guidance we ultimately depend for its completion.

Oh God, how full of wonder are thy ways! The tempest goes forth in destruction; but the skies are cleared by its appalling energy, and nature, soon reviving, repairs its ravages with increased fertility. War, which is but too often the tempest of human passion, is also an agent of destruction; but its course awakens our highest energies, and in its final consequences the hand of a wise and benevolent Providence may not unfrequently be traced.

To that war which was lately an object of such intense anxiety to all of us during many successive months, we are indebted for the plan which our Memorial Church is destined to accomplish. The Sultan's grant of the land required for it is a link in the long chain of munificent concessions which have distinguished his reign. It is a part of that far greater and more comprehensive act of justice which crowned the results of the war, in so far as moral principles, apart from mere political questions, are concerned, by establishing liberty of conscience in religious matters throughout the Ottoman dominion.

It was but natural that a triumph so interesting and beneficial to mankind, should spring out of that gigantic struggle of which the Crimea was the main battle-field, and which, originating in the vindication of national rights, was productive of sympathy and union between rival Powers and repulsive populations. It is not beyond hope that the same causes may continue to operate, and that the religion of Christ, the religion of peace, may spread far and wide its civilising influence, and ultimately realize, by its universal extension — I mean by the natural prevalence of truth and reason — hopes which I confess to be the most ardent desire of my heart.

If, then, the war was productive of so much advantage to humanity, both in past and in prospect, we have the consolation to reflect that neither did they who fought and fell under the banner of its justice resign their lives in vain. Though it was not my duty or my fortune to share the toils and dangers of our gallant countrymen in the field, I can personally bear witness to the cheerful fortitude and truly Christian resignation displayed by those who had to endure even severer trials on the bed of sickness or under the surgeon's knife.

Whether it was their lot to die or to survive, they nobly maintained their character alike on the deck as in the field, in the wards of the hospital as in the ranks of battle. Their exertions and sacrifices have, in truth, contributed powerfully to open the way for those unspotted acquisitions which no territorial aggrandisement can equal, and whose value is the more appreciated the longer it is enjoyed.

Honour, unfading honour, be theirs! Honour assigned not only to the departed by their lamenting comrades, but to all by the consenting voices of an approving Sovereign and an applauding nation. Without distinction of class or rank, the names of those who fell will be engraven on the walls of that sacred edifice, the foundation-stone of which is now to be laid by my unworthy hands. Their achievements, so fruitful of good in all but their untimely end, will be long preserved in a more lively temple of glory — the memory of a loving people, confirmed and perpetuated by the records of a grateful age.

Having delivered this speech, his lordship laid down in the foundations English and Turkish coins, and the following inscription, which was composed in England by the Committee of the Memorial Church : —

In sanctissimæ et individuæ Trinitatis
Gloriam Sempiternam Hujusce Ecdesiæ
In urbe Constantinopoli
Ritibus Anglicanis et advenis Britannicis paratæ
In Memoriam Pacis et Justitiæ!
Per arma in Crimea Vindicatæ Militum Britannicorum
Omnium strenue dimicantium
Nonnullorum fortiter occumbentium
Voluntariis concivium sumptibus constructæ
Lapidem angularem Dei veneratione motus
Posuit prænobilis vir Stratford Vicecomes Stratford de Redcliffe
XIX die mensis Octobris

A.D. MDCCCLVIII Anno Victoriæ Britannia. Reg.
Abdul Medjid Khan qui solum munificenter Imperante largitus est.

The following extract is from the Bishop of Gibraltar's Visitation in 1864 (page 50ff)

The only English Church which has as yet been consecrated at Constantinople, is the Chapel attached to the British Embassy. It stands in the gardens of the Ambassador's large but not very imposing palace, which occupies one of the best sites at Pera, commanding a view of the Golden Horn, with the many domes and minarets of Stamboul, on the other side, seen through the groves of magnificent cypresses which descend towards the water. The Chapel is a substantial and well-appointed building; but its excessive plainness is much to be lamented in a city where the noble pile of St. Sophia not only shows the efforts made by a Christian Emperor to express the reverence due to the worship of God, but has served as a model to the successive Sultans, who have striven to outvie its stately proportions, and its treasures of coloured marbles, in their magnificent mosques. With the exception of these mosques, Constantinople is little more than a city of huts; and on observing the meanness of its dwelling houses in contrast with the noble temples, for which no cost or labour have been spared, an Englishman will often think with shame how often, in his own country, the contrast is the other way—some mean and unsightly house of God by the side of a princely mansion, for which nothing has been thought too good.

It is satisfactory to know that the new Memorial Church will not unworthily exhibit the character and style of English Christian architecture. The site, which was given by the late Sultan, is an open space in Pera, lower down the hill than the British Embassy, and in the direction of the Bosphorus. Though somewhat surrounded by buildings on three sides, it will show itself well on the fourth to the English seamen on the Bosphorus. The first stone was laid by Lord Stratford de Redclyffe and Sir I.T. Bulwer, and has been covered over for several years, owing to unforeseen difficulties in preparing plans and making contracts. It was gratifying to the Bishop of Gibraltar that the work was resumed during his visit. The foundations have occupied much time, from the nature of the soil; but the walls are now showing themselves above ground, and it is hoped that the Chapel will be ready for consecration in 1866. Some difference of opinion exists as to whether this site (as at no great distance from the Embassy Chapel) has been well chosen; but as it is the site given by the late Sultan, and the building will be conspicuous from the sea,—and as, moreover, if the question had been re-opened, the probability is that the whole scheme would have been endlessly postponed, —the Bishop was thankful to find that the Committee of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel had not been influenced by objections upon that score.

Besides the Embassy Chapel, Divine Service is regularly conducted in the School-chapel of the S.P.G. Mission; in a Chapel built during the Crimean war, at the suburb of Ortakemi, above the Bosphorus; in the School-chapel of the Mission of the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews, at Haskeni, a village or suburb on the Golden Horn, much inhabited by the British engineers and other artisans employed at the docks and arsenals; and the Clergy are always ready to administer Divine Service at the villages on the other side of the Bosphorns, where English reside, who could not possibly attend the services in Pera. The English are very much scattered about, especially in the summer; and it is then very important that service should be regularly conducted at Therapia, some fifteen miles from Pera, near the entrance to the Black Sea. As there is only one Chaplain to the British Embassy, who has two services at the Ambassador's Chapel (and no one who has not been at Constantinople can conceive the difficulty of transit, even from one part of Pera to another), it is obvious that all these services could not be carried on without a considerable staff of Clergy; more particularly as it is most important that one or other of the Clergy should, from time to time, travel into the provinces to minister to the groups of English who, for commercial or engineering objects, are widely scattered about, and depend for means of grace on such visits as can thus be accomplished. For instance, at Kustandji on the Black Sea, at Galatz and Sulina on the Danube, there are considerable groups, of whom more special mention will presently he made.

At the time of the Bishop of Gibraltar's visit, there were nine Clergymen at Constantinople (now increased to ten). They are as follows:—
Rev. C. B. Gribble, Chaplain to British Embassy.
Rev. G. C. Curtis, S.P.G. Missionary.
Rev. Dr. Pfander, C.M.S. Missionary.
Rev. Dr. Koehle, C.M S. Missionary.
Rev. R. H. Weakley, C M S. Missionary.
Rev. H. S. Knapp, Colonial Ch. and Sch. Soc. Chaplain.
Rev. C. L. Newman, London S P.C. among the Jews.
Rev. S. H. Ewald, S.P.G. Missionary.
Rev. E. Williams (Deacon), S.P.G. Missionary.
Rev. Mahmoud Eifendi (Deacon), S P G. Missionary.

It is impossible to look through this list of Clergy—with reference to the several Societies which they represent, and to the fact that, while the Embassy Chaplain is the natural president of the Clergy in any meetings, there is no recognised and Canonical head of so numerous a staff—without much thankfulness that hitherto there has been so much harmony among its members, and that they present an united front against the opponents of the common creed. This has been publicly expressed several times by the Bishop of Gibraltar; and it is gratifying to know that Mr. Gribble invites the aid of the several Clergymen in preaching the Lent Lectures in the Embassy Chapel, and is always anxious to promote the spirit of unity and brotherhood among his brethren. It will at once be seen how essential it is to any hope of missionary success, as well as to the credit of the English Church, that this blessed spirit should breathe throughout the various efforts and actings of so many somewhat independent Missions.

The particular object of the valuable Colonial Church Mission is the benefit of the seamen. Mr. Knapp visits them, and has services on board the ships in the harbour; and has conducted an evening service in the Schoolroom of the London Mission for Promoting Christianity among the Jews.

These details are mentioned, in order that the readers of the Colonial Church Chronicle may see how many and how various are the occasions for Christian effort at Constantinople, and in the hope that these good works may be more supported than hitherto by contributions (much needed) from England. For instance, Mr. Curtis conducts a school for the English children at his Mission premises in Pera. It is attended by forty children. This was not originally contemplated by the S. P. G. Committee; but, as it was found to supply a great want, the Committee sanctioned and contributed generously towards it Practically, however, it answers in no inconsiderable degree the purpose of an orphanage. It happens continually that children (especially in cases of mixed marriages) are left in a most destitute condition; and Mr. Curtis has (beyond his means) seen to the support as well as instruction of such orphans. Funds could scarcely be entrusted for a more Christian object than to enable Mr. C. to meet these cases. The charge ought not to fall, as it has hitherto fallen, upon himself to a great degree.

There is a flourishing school attached to the Jewish Mission. The Jews at Constantinople are chiefly descendants of those who were driven from Spain by the intolerance of its bigoted rulers, and hospitably received by the Turks. They speak almost exclusively the Spanish language. The excellent head of this Mission was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Gibraltar, at the Embassy Chapel, on Sunday, June 5th. This was the first ordination by a Protestant Bishop at Constantinople. [Mr. Newman has since been ordained Priest at St. Paul's Church, Valetta]

It should be stated, as a proof that the English Church at Constantinople is not unmindful of the poor, that there are two charitable funds— one (for the supply of necessaries in winter) conducted with much kindness and solicitude by Lady Bulwer; the other, known as the Relief Fund, for general distress among the poor British population. The case of orphans, however, is felt to be one that demands extraordinary aid.

During the Bishop's visit of a month, he preached on Sunday mornings in the Embassy Chapel, and on the evenings in the other places where prayer was wont to be made: always finding numerous and attentive congregations. On St. Barnabas' Day, he confirmed ten Turks in the S. P. G. School-chapel; and, on the following day, thirty-five English candidates for the sacred rite, in the Embassy Chapel. The charge to the Turks who were confirmed was translated and read to them in their own tongue by one of the Turkish Deacons. This was the first pnblic confirmation of Turks in Constantinople, and the first occasion, it is believed, on which Turkish women, in their peculiar veil, were present at a public ordinance. It was not administered in the Embassy Chapel, in order to avoid needless publicity.

The Bishop, of course, visited the English burial-grounds, both at Pera and Therapia. That at the latter place is in the same painfully neglected condition which there was occasion to notice at Smyrna and Messina. A grant, however, had recently been made from the Home Government towards the expense of removing the dead (with the gravestones, as far as possible) from the old cemetery at Pera (which was required by the Turkish Government) to a new one lately granted; and the operation (necessarily painful) vfas being conducted, under Mr. Gribble's care, with reverence and solicitude.

There is a flourishing station of the Bible Society at Constantinople (the same cannot be said of the depot for S.P.C.K. publications), and the sale of Bibles had much increased of late. Mr. Newman, the Jewish Missionary, has since made an excursion into Moldavia, and other neighbouring provinces; and the sale of Bibles and the cordiality of his reception among Jews were such as to repay him for the severe privations which he encountered from the absence of all accommodation. In Bulgaria, the Bible is said to be the only book much read; and the ecclesiastical condition of that country is just now full of interest, and opens a field for Christian exertion. Shortly after the Bishop of Gibraltar left Constantinople, Mr. Curtis was applied to confidentially, with a written request for intervention on the part of the English Church, with a view to assist the Church of Bulgaria in its efforts after independence. It appears that the supremacy of the Greek Church is distasteful to the Christians in Bulgaria, and an opening is thus afforded for the establishment of schools and the diffusion of books in that province. [The wife of the British Consul at Monasters or Bitolia has been actively engaged in providing instruction for the Bulgarian children. Two benevolent ladies are endeavouring to establish Schools in Servia on the model of those so successfully conducted for thirty years at Athens by Mrs. Hill. The Misses Walsh have, with persevering zeal, conducted a school of the same description for many years at Constantinople.] This is but one of many instances in which (both in the East and West—in Armenia, Greece, and Italy) we find tokens of a wish to look to the Church of England, if not as an ecclesiastical model, at least for guidance and counsel.

It may be well to narrate, somewhat more at length, a still more touching instance of the same kind which occurred while the Bishop was in the East, and which led him to seek an interview with the Armenian Patriarch.

This he had not contemplated. Regarding the Patriarch of Constantinople as the representative of the Catholic Church in the East (orthodox in its creed, however much needing reformation in practice), the Bishop of Gibraltar requested an interview with that venerable prelate, in the same spirit of reverence and brotherly love in which he had sought and enjoyed his interviews with the Archbishops of Smyrna and Athens. And if no great result followed from his visit it appeared to be received with pleasure, and returned (by the Bishop of Candia, on the part of the venerable Patriarch) with courtesy. The visit to the Armenian Patriarch took place in consequence of an application from an Armenian congregation to be supplied with an ordained Pastor, and to be regarded as a charge in the Diocese of Gibraltar. The Armenian Church seems formerly to have been involved in Eutychian error; but this does not appear to be the case at present. Eutyches and Nestorius are both anathematized by it, with other heretics; and if its version of the Nicene Creed is not identical in words either with our own or the Greek form, it confesses explicitly the consubstantiality of the Three Persons of the blessed Trinity. Viewed according to the theory of Diocesan Episcopacy which is received in the West, its position would seem questionable, if not actually schismatic. But the Eastern theory appears to regard Churches as national rather than local or territorial; and thus, while the relation of the Armenian Church to the Greek may not be very cordial, the Greek Patriarch exchanges visits with his Armenian brother, and does not seem to regard him as an intruder or schismatic. Indeed, from time to time it has been the custom for the Greek Patriarch to visit the church of the Armenian, and pronounce a blessing from his throne. And then the Greek prelates never seem to regard the presence of an Anglican Bishop in the East as an intrusion; but as the natural and legitimate consequence of the residence of Englishmen. Their theory of Episcopacy is that Dioceses are distinguished by race and nations, rather than by place.

The Bishop of Gibraltar visited several Armenian churches; and, as far as he could judge, the ritual appeared to be simpler—less characterised by what Protestants would consider mere "bodily exercise"—than the Greek. All these facts should be much weighed by any one who would form an opinion as to the relation of these ancient communions to each other or to the Church of England.

When the American (Independent) Missionaries came to the East about twenty-five years ago, they addressed themselves to the work of promoting reformation in the Armenian Church. It was not their primary intention to draw Armenians away from their native Church, but to induce that ancient communion to reform itself. And it would have been well if they had abided by that original purpose. Under the influence, however (it is said), of their supporters at Boston, they could not refrain, after a time, from forming their converts into congregations (Independent), under their own control and discipline. This discipline is so rigid that they not only do not admit persons to Communion who cannot give such evidence of piety as satisfies the ruling Board; but they do not adroit children to baptism unless their parents are thus approved. They have formed in this way a vast number of congregations ; and if the government of the American Missionaries has been rigid, it seems in a pecuniary sense to have been liberal, until the funds from America were less freely supplied in consequence of the unhappy war. Coincidently (it is said) with that diminished supply, complaints began to be heard in some of the congregations of the hard measure meted out by their spiritual rulers; and about a year before the death of the late Bishop of Gibraltar, the Armenian congregation at Pera (up to that time ruled by the American Missionaries) applied to be received into his Diocese. They urged the severity of the American discipline; the difficulty of obtaining the administration of sacraments; and also that on reflection they were convinced that, while thankful to the American Missionaries for instructing them in the great Christian truths, they had been mistaken in giving up much that was primitive and Catholic in their native Church, together (certainly) with much that was superstitious. They asked for the restoration of Liturgical worship and the Episcopal forms of Government. The late Bishop advised them to prepare a reformed exemplar of the Armenian Liturgy; but this correspondence seems to have been interrupted by his death. It was renewed with his successor, who had several very interesting interviews with deputations from the congregation, including a venerable priest who had suffered much for his scriptural views, and also the person whom the congregation wished to present for Holy Orders.

The Bishop of Gibraltar was much inclined to accede to their request. There were indeed the obvious objections that the Armenian Patriarch might possibly be offended, and the American Missionaries might complain. On the other hand it might be possible to overcome the objections of the Patriarch: and acknowledging fully the zeal aud devotedness of the Missionaries, the Bishop of Gibraltar could not but sympathise heartily with the wishes expressed by the Armenians. He thought it prudent, however, to seek an interview with the Armenian Patriarch, nor was this purpose objected to by the deputation. The result of this visit was unfavourable to their object. The Patriarch (whose appearance aud manner were dignified and impressive) acknowledged frankly [The interviews with the two Patriarchs were of course conducted with the assistance of a Dragoman. Sir H. Bulwer was kind enough to allow the attendance of his own Dragoman, the lamented Mr. P. Sarell, since drowned when bathing in the Bosphorus. On three other occasions the Bishop of Gibraltar was much indebted to Mr. Sarell for kind attentions] that the Bishop of Gibraltar's conduct in consulting him was fair and straight-forward. But he objected in the strongest manner to his complying with the request. He said that no words could express the extent of evil done to his Church by the Americans; that they had come among his flock, treating them as idolaters, and sowing seeds of strife and division in numberless families; and (he added) that if the Bishop of Gibraltar should comply with the request of this particular congregation, the probability was that their example would be followed by others still faithful to their native Church; and that such an act on the part of an English Bishop would inflict serious injury on that ancient Christian communion.

The representation of the venerable Prelate was so strong, that the Bishop felt it his duty (before acting as he was inclined to act) to consult those whom in England he is especially bound to advise with in cases of difficulty; and their answer lhas been such as to induce him at all events to suspend any final decision. It is urged that by complying with the request the Bishop of Gibraltar might be involved in difficulties as to creed and discipline without any real power of dealing with them; and again, that, at a time when the desire for unity seems to be springing up in all parts of Christendom, it would be unfortunate if any act of an English Bishop should estrange the ancient Churches of the East more widely than is now the case, from the Church of England. He feels the force of their reasons; and, in deference to those to whom all reverence is due, he has left the matter at present as it was. But while it is impossible to advise this congregation to return to the rule of the Independents, it is equally impossible to counsel them to acquiesce in the conditions on which the Armenian Patriarch would receive them back, and remote the tremendous excommunication which had been fulminated against them. One of these conditions is, that they acknowledge adoration to be due not only to the True Cross, but to all other crosses as images of that sacred object.

The Bishop of Gibraltar must own that it has been with great pain that he has thus far denied compliance with the request of these apparently devout and anxious petitioners, who seem (ecclesiastically) in a most helpless condition, if the Church of England (especially bound to sympathise with Christians desiring to return to the primitive order and discipline) feels herself bound to turn away from them. As one of their body is a very aged priest (who received the Holy Communion as a clergyman at the Embassy Chapel one of the Sundays when the Bishop officiated) it is possible that, for a time, at all events, the Holy Communion may be administered in the Congregation. The aged priest is not capable of preaching; and the Bishop suggested that he might licence the lay brother whom the congregation wished to present for Holy Orders, as a preacher. Much compassion is felt for a body of conscientious men thus painfully circumstanced ; and when it is remembered that applications for more aggressive action on the part of the Church of England are now made in Italy as well as in the East, and wlien there is reason also to believe that more forward steps on her part might produce extensive effects towards a reformation conducted on her own principles of Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order,—it becomes a serious question, What is this special duty to which God calls the Church of England at the present crisis, and is she faithfully devoting herself to it?

However, a different perspective, allegedly that of the British Consul, comes a few years later in Two Years of the Eastern Question, Antonio Carlo N. Gallenga (1877), pages 260ff:

... I have suffered political considerations to divert me from the subject of this present chapter, which I intended to devote exclusively to the English colony on the Bosphorus. One of the things I should like to call your attention to, said Sir Philip Francis, the English Consul, to whom I was indebted for much useful information, is that we are here rather over-parsoned, and proceeding to particulars, he stated what I now will attempt to write down, quoting, as closely as I can, his own words. I remember a good old English lady, whose home lay in the centre of one of the most charming rural districts, and who yet came to the resolution to leave the spot to which half a century of wedded life had strongly attached her, for the only reason that she could not live where she could not enjoy 'daily services and weekly celebrations'. It might seem that any person acting under the impulse of such laudable wants would not be easily induced to settle in partibus infidelium, yet there is, perhaps, hardly a cathedral town in England itself where my venerable friend could have better gratified her devotional cravings than here on the Bosphorus, under the rule of the Sovereign who calls himself 'head of the Mohammedan faith'. Reckoning Stamboul and Pera, and all the various villages situated on either shore of the Strait, the British and American population averages about five hundred souls, and to minister to their spiritual wants, it is hardly exaggeration to assert that we have fifty gentlemen, one in ten who go about in black coats and white neck-cloths, and whom it would be ill manners not to designate by the much-disputed title of 'reverend'.

First and foremost we have here in Pera the chaplain of her Majesty's Embassy, the Rev. C. B. Gribble, whose impressive delivery and sound doctrine edify a numerous but select official congregation; while for those whose leanings are towards the more demonstrative Ritualistic innovations there is the 'Memorial Church', a monument in good style erected in honour of the Crimean heroes, where Mr. Curtis, deeply versed in Byzantine Archaeological lore, regularly officiates; and we muster besides, Dr. Millingen, a Presbyterian minister, and Dr. Roller, a German by extraction, but ordained in England, and equally at home in an English and German pulpit. The Scotch have their own minister, Mr. Christie, of the Established, and Mr. Brown, of the Free Kirk. The Americans assemble under the auspices of a clergyman, Mr. Tomory, and they have besides a whole colony of preachers attached to their flourishing college at Boumeli Hissar and Bebek.

The little flock at Kadikeui, near Scutari, are in the charge of Messrs. Elliot, Bliss, and Wood, the first-named English, the two others Americans - numerous enough, one would think, in proportion to their congregation, to hold a council in that hallowed locality the ancient Chalcedon renowned in olden times for its grand ecclesiastical gatherings. The British and American Bible Societies have, besides, their clerical establishments both at Galata and Scutari, and under the shadow of the Great Mosque at Stamboul; and at Hasskeui, the home of the Israelites, there is a Church of England missionary, Mr. Neumann, and a good number of other missionaries, with missionary schools for Jew boys and girls.


Throughout his life Gribble (like his former curate at St Paul's Daniel Ace, and many other Victorian clergymen) was a keen amateur astronomer. His observations were regularly printed in the local press. In August 1868 he wrote an account of The Disappearance of Jupiter’s Satellites on the 21st of that month; a few months later this letter was printed in the Levant Times [photograph from 1869].

Other family members

The Gribble family spread far and wide. There were various untimely deaths – including his first wife, and his son Charles (who died in Foochow aged 23). His brother Henry, a Captain in the East India Company, also lost his first wife Maria in 1829; he continued to serve in Bombay, where in 1849 he asked the local Geographical Society to lend or sell him a 'transit instrument' and any other astronomical equipment they might have to spare.

John Brown Gribble (1847-1893), from Cornwall, emigrated as a child to Australia in 1848 and became a Church of England missionary in Queensland, fiercely championing the Aboriginal cause, which despite his bishop's support broke him : see more details here. But many of his large family continued in missionary work; and one descendent became a general manager of the Australian railway system.

Bernard Finegan Gribble (1873-1962) was a noted marine painter, who it is said designed King George V's Christmas cards for some years; he exhibited at the Royal Academy and his picture The Doomed Fleet hangs in the Old Parliament House in Canberra. Two family members were authors – Francis (died 1956) and the crime writer Leonard (died 1985).

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