Princess Astrid, sister of King Harald V of Norway, opened the new St Olav’s Square in Albion Street on Sunday 17 September.
St Olav’s Norwegian church, which stands near the entrance to the Rotherhithe tunnel, formerly a mission to sailors in nearby Surrey Docks, now serves Norwegians living throughout the UK.
The church has worked over several years with Southwark Council to improve the area in front of the church. This involved the removal of the disused public toilets and a car park and opening up the space in front of the landmark church, newly visible to traffic approaching from Jamaica Road.
After a church service led by The Revd Torbjorn Holt, the Princess and invited guests gathered in the new square for the unveiling of a new bust of King Haakon VII, which is based on a full length statue in Oslo. Haakon’s biographer, Tor Bomann Larsen, spoke about the King’s life in wartime London when having refused to abdicate in face of demands from Germany, regularly attended St Olav’s Norwegian church and attended to Norwegian government business in exile.
Leader of the council Peter John, past mayor and local councillor Kath Whittam and cabinet member for regeneration Mark Williams were presented to the Princess in recognition of Southwark’s partnership in the creation of a new public open space as part as the ongoing regeneration of the Albion Street.
Wreaths at a restored war memorial were laid by veterans of the wartime Norwegian shipping fleets, including Donald Hunter who served as radio officer on three Norwegian merchant ships carrying dangerous cargoes to allied forces.
The small fountain in the garden was donated by a Norwegian family in memory of their daughter.