British Rule 1878-1960
When the British took over the island in 1878, they found a crumbling, oriental town inside the city walls that was full of problems. The Ottoman subjects that lived within the city walls had not respected the historical sites and unique treasures of the city. The British soon realised the economic potential of the harbour of Famagusta and its significance in their commercial exchanges with the rest of the colonies of the British Empire. They proceeded with ambitious plans to restructure and improve the existing harbour. Much of the walls were destroyed and the stones carried in cargo ships to Alexandria to build the Suez canal. The people of Famagusta waited for the ambitious, new project that would revamp the harbour and bring life again into the city. However, the plans never materialised and the British gave priority to the new prospects that were opening up for trade.
|Hosting the British flag at Nicosia |
Illustrated London News 1878
When the British arrived in Famagusta there were no more than 2000 inhabitants. The activity of the city was centred around the main commercial street, the market place, a couple of inns, many pottery workshops and coffee shops. The very little intellectual and spiritual life was restricted to the schools, namely the Boys School and the Girl School of the city. At the beginning of the 20th century, in 1904, some restorative works were undertaken on the harbour and a new railroad linking Famagusta to Nicosia, opened. This event did spark some hope for renewal.
In 1911 the ‘Anagnostirion Anorthosis’ (Anorthosis Reading Room) was founded and became the stage for the organisation of numerous events. It also housed the city’s library. It is at this time that the first newspapers were published. The Greek Lyceum for Girls, the Higher Institute for English and Commerce of Varosha also made their appearance at this time.
The end of World War Two signalled a new era for Famagusta. The population increased significantly and the city expanded in all directions. Also, the sea and its innumerable treasures were discovered once again, and the inhabitants started to build their first houses and hotels on the sea front. It is at this time that Famagusta experienced an intellectual rebirth and many outstanding personalities of Cypriot society left their footprints at this time in Famagusta.
The archaeological wealth of Salamis and Enkomi triggered important excavations whilst artists like Paul Georgiou contributed greatly to the enlightenment of the city and its spiritual awakening. The poets Seferis and Elytis stay at Evangelos Louizou’s house marked a turning point in their literary evolution and at the same time brought the city of Famagusta at the forefront of the Greek literary scene. Finally, after having endured many hardships, the city had once again regained the spiritual, intellectual and economic prosperity it once had.