Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Rotherhithe in South London Docklands has a long association with Scandinavia.
The story starts in 1016 when the Anglo-Saxon Edmund Ironside (aka Edmund the Aetheling) was defending London against the Danes. King Canute (or Knut) of Denmark, the same one who commanded the tide, was unable to take his longships under defended London Bridge, so he dug a canal through the marshes from Rotherhithe to Battersea and dragged his longships round the bridge instead (for what happened next see the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).
More recently Surrey Docks took in Scandinavian and Baltic timber and the area became the home for many Scandinavians. Then in WW2 Rotherhithe became the home of the Norwegian King and the Government in exile. When I was living in the area, the King of Norway still visited the Norwegian Church in Rotherhithe every year; maybe he still does. In recognition of its importance to Norway, the area around the church has Norwegian as well as English street signs.
This weekend the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish churches will be having their Christmas Fairs, which are all well worth visiting. My favourite was always the Finnish Fair, where you can get Reindeer skins, Moomin merchandise and Marimekko fabrics, and also hear the strange unearthly Finnish language being spoken.