PortCities London

Scandinavian seamen in London


St Olav's, the Norwegian Seamen's Church.
View full size imageSt Olav's, the Norwegian Seamen's Church. © NMM
London's port was a place where many nationalities and races met. Thousands of seamen from every continent made regular journeys to London with their ships. They often acquired an intimate knowledge of the docks, wharves and nearby streets without ever settling in London.

Some nationalities formed large transient communities, with churches and institutions catering for those who were passing through.

The former Scandinavian Seamen's Hostel.
View full size imageThe former Scandinavian Seamen's Hostel near the West India Docks. © NMM

The best known of these were the Scandinavians - seamen from Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden. Many ships from these countries came to London, particularly to the Surrey Commercial Docks, where names such as Norway Dock and Finland Yard reflect the trade carried on there. Rotherhithe had several Lutheran churches at which no services were conducted in English.

The Norwegian Constitution Day Parade in Southwark Park.
View full size imageThe Norwegian Constitution Day Parade in Southwark Park. © NMM
Although the inner London docks are gone and Scandinavian seamen no longer walk the streets of Rotherhithe, the churches survive and still cater for their respective communities.