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Armenian Culture, Science and Education Development Foundation

Armenian Orphan who became a Billionaire and Saved His School from Closure

La_Martiniere_Calcutta_by_Francis_Frith

Sir Catchick Paul Chater was a prominent British businessman of Armenian descent in colonial Hong Kong. Khachik Pogose Astwachatoor was born in Calcutta, British India, on 8 September 1846, and was awarded The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, a British order of chivalry
One of thirteen children of Armenian parents Miriam and Chater Paul Chater, who was a member of the Indian civil service; Sir Paul was orphaned at the age of seven, and he gained entry into the La Martiniere College in Calcutta on a scholarship. He later became a benefactor of the school when, in the early 1910s he made the single biggest donation to any institution or organisation whilst still alive, donating eleven lakhs Rupees to the desperately struggling school, thus allowing it to avoid certain closure. To honor his contribution to the school, Sir Paul Chater’s name was included in the school prayer. In 1864, he moved to Hong Kong from Calcutta and lived with the family of his sister Anna and husband Jordan Paul Jordan.
As www.aypoupen.com reported, in the early days in Hong Kong, he was an assistant at the Bank of Hindustan, China and Japan. Later, with the aid of the Sassoon family, he set up business as an exchange broker, resigned from the bank, and traded gold bullion and land on his own account. He took sea-bed soundings at night in a sampan and was thus instrumental in plotting the reclamation of Victoria Harbour. He is credited with a pivotal role in the colonial government’s success in acquiring lands then held by the military, at a cost of two million pounds sterling.
In 1868, he and Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody formed Chater & Mody, a largely successful business partnership in Hong Kong, although the firm’s Hong Kong Milling Company (aka Rennie’s Mill) failed in 1908 and resulted in the suicide of Albert Rennie.
In 1886, He helped Patrick Manson establish Dairy Farm, and he entered the Legislative Council that same year, taking the place of F.D. Sassoon. In 1889, he established Hong Kong Land with James Johnston Keswick. Hong Kong Land commenced the land reclamation project under the Praya Reclamation Scheme in 1890. Persuaded by the suggestion of temporary councilor Bendyshe Layton that Hong Kong should have electricity, they secretly acquired an old graveyard in Wan Chai, where they built one of the earliest power stations in the world. In 1890 the Hong Kong Electric company went into production with his help as an informal member of the Executive Council.

Sir Paul was enthusiastic in two sports: He played for the Hong Kong Cricket Club 1st IX, and was a thoroughbred horse racing enthusiast. He reportedly never missed the weekly races at the Happy ValleyRacecourse in 60 years. He set up the Chater Stable in Hong Kong in 1872 that won many races at Happy Valley. The Hong Kong Champions & Chater Cup, the Group One third leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown, is named in his honor.
In 1896, Chater joined government ranks when he was appointed to the Executive Council of Hong Kong, and served there until 1926, the year of his death. Chater was knighted in 1902. In 1901, Chater constructed a very fine home with imported European marble at 1, Conduit Road, Hong Kong which he named ‘Marble Hall’. Therein, he housed his collection of fine porcelain. In 1904, Chater single-handedly financed the construction of St. Andrew’s Church
Some titles and positions held by Chater:

Master of the Perseverance Lodge 1873
Steward at the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club
Chairman of the Board of Stewards of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (1892–1926)
Senior Justice of the Peace in Hong Kong
District Grand Master of Hong Kong and South China (1881-1909)
Director of Dairy Farm Co. Ltd., 1886
Consul for Siam in Hong Kong
Treasurer and Chairman of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Committee 1887
Member of the Légion d’honneur by the French Government at Tonkin 1892
Member of the Public Lighting Committee 1896
Member of the Governor’s Executive Council 1896
Chairman of the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Committee 1897
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George 1897
Honorary degree of LL.D. by the University of Hong Kong for services as the Honorary Treasurer 1923

Chater died 27 May 1926, and bequeathed Marble Hall and its entire contents, including his unique collection of porcelain and paintings, to Hong Kong. The remainder of his estate went to the Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth in Calcutta, which runs a home for Armenianelderly, named The Sir Catchick Paul Chater Home. He was interred at the Hong Kong Cemetery.

Chater’s wife lived in Marble Hall as a life tenant until her death in 1935. Ownership then passed to the government. It became “Admiralty House” – the official residence of the Naval Commander-in-Chief, and was commandeered by Japanese during their occupation. It accidentally burned down in 1946, and the government buildings occupied the site since its demolition in 1953. Government residences named ‘Chater Hall Flats’ are today located on the site of Marble Hall.
Chater amassed a large collection of historical pictures and engravings relating to China which he gifted to the colony. The Chater Collection was subject to a work by its curator, James Orange, in 1924, at which time the collection stood at 430 items. Its backbone was the collection of Wyndham Law of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, and included oil paintings, watercolors, sketches, prints and photographs, most of which are based on landscape scenes of the South China trading ports in the 18th and 19th centuries, and of British activities in China.. The Chater Collection was dispersed and largely destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and only 94 pieces (now an important part of the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art) are known to have survived.

Nowadays, there exists a garden in Hong Kong named after him: Chater Garden, near Chater House Tower and lies on Chater Road. There also exists a Catchick street in his name, in addition to Peking Road that was previously named Chater Street until 1909, when it was renamed to avoid confusion with Chater Road.

 

 

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