The early churches
The earliest Scandinavian churches in London were both in Wapping, north of the busy wharves. The Danish church in Wellclose Square was built in 1696 thanks to a donation from Christian V, King of Denmark. It closed in the 1840s, and the Infants School of St Paul's Church for Seamen later stood on the site.
|Inside the Swedish Church, Princes Square. © NMM|
The Swedish Church in Princes Square, Wapping, was built in 1727. One of its most famous worshippers was the thinker and scientist Emanuel Swedenborg. The church closed in 1909, after its maritime duties had passed to the Swedish Seamen's Church, opened in Rotherhithe in 1899.
|Inside the Danish Church, Poplar. © NMM|
The seamen's missions and their churches
To cater for the large numbers of their seamen in foreign ports, each of the Scandinavian countries founded international seamen's missions. Their initial concern was with the religious and moral welfare of their seamen abroad, but eventually they provided reading rooms, entertainment and - perhaps the most important of all - 'a piece of homeland abroad'.
The seamen's missions founded churches and institutes for their compatriots in London. As most Scandinavian ships visiting London were bringing timber to the Surrey Commercial Docks, it is not surprising that the seamen's missions chose Rotherhithe as the site for their churches.
The first Norwegian Seamen's Church was the Ebenezer Church in Bickley Row, Rotherhithe, near the Commercial Dock Pier. It opened in 1871.
|St Olav's, the Norwegian Church in London. © NMM|
|Outside the Finnish Church, Rotherhithe. © NMM|