Norwegian Church, Swansea

SA1 Swansea Waterfront

A Norwegian community has long been present at Swansea - their number reaching a climax in the early 1900's when Scandinavian ships regularly anchored at Swansea Docks to deliver Redwood pit props for the local mines and to be loaded with coal. The Norwegian sailors, who had to wait on land here for up to 2 weeks at a time, were religious people and originally attended church service in the town in a sailmaker's ('Dan the Sailmaker') loft at the bottom end of The Strand. These were run by a Mr Sivertsen, father of the former Mayor of Swansea City Council, Verner Sivertsen. Needing a more suitable building for their growing congregation, in 1909 Mr Sivertsen, along with shipchandler Lars Knutsen made an application to the Seamen's Mission to create a church in Swansea.

The Seamen's Mission, an organisation offering spiritual help to Norwegian sailors all over the world, already had churches in Cardiff and Newport, but agreed to the application after deciding to relocate their Newport Mission (which was losing out because of its proximity to the Capital) to Swansea. In 1910 the Newport Mission church was closed and the building dismantled. Re-erected at the Prince Charles Dock, Swansea, the Church was a instant success. The Mission, open every day and later 24/7 during the Second World War, became the focus for the Norwegian Community and was as much of a social club as a place for religious worship. After Sunday Service, the congregation would often hire coaches to tour the beautiful neighbouring countryside of the Gower Peninsula.

With the passing of the war and Swansea Port's gradual decline, visiting Norwegians became scarce and in 1966 the church's minister - Pastor Somerset - was ordered to abandon the Mission and return to Norway. By this time, however, the city's resident Norwegian Community had taken the small church to its hearts and they decided to take on the running of the building themselves. From 1968 the Reverend Vivienne James took over services at the church and kept the building alive for a further 30 years. By the time Reverend James retired, in 1998, the congregation at the Mission had grown old and few. The building too had aged and was in need of repair. With no funds available to finance the necessary work, the lease on the church was not renewed after the Reverend's retirement and the last working Seamen's Mission in Britain closed.

During the early part of the current SA1 development, the church needed to be relocated again. The church was carefully dismantled, restored and relocated beside two other historic buildings within the development, in order to create a historic snapshot of the former Swansea Docks.

The church is now used as an art gallery.

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