A Closer Look at Norway House
Just off Trafalgar Square, on Cockspur Street, you’ll find Norway House.
The current building dates from 1914-15 and was built by Metcalfe & Grieg. At this point they didn’t know who might occupy the building and so the sculpture along the top are fairly generic – but lovely – reliefs.
They depict scenes of commerce, transport, industry and communication.
From 1920 it became known as Norway House, becoming headquarters to the Norwegian-British Chamber of Commerce a year later.
The opening was attended by Haakon VII, King of Norway between 1905-1957, who would’ve walked beneath the golden sculpture of another Norwegian King.
Image from Wikimedia Commons Haakon VII in 1906
Still visible today, the golden statue is by Gustav Laerum. It shows St Olaf, the King of Norway from 1015-1028.
St Olaf – or Olave – has a firm place in London’s history. In the early 11th century he visited England, driving out Danish invaders from London. There’s some indication that his technique to defend the City of London – pulling down London Bridge to cut off access – is what give us the famous nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’.
There were once multiple churches dedicated to the Saint and you can find many reminders of him in London, including in the post below…
In 1924 another Norwegian Club moved in, this time Den Norske Klub. Founded in 1887, it provides a community for Norwegian expats.
I kind of love the haphazard story behind their foundation. It goes something along the lines of a group of young Norwegians were out celebrating their national day in a bar in 1887. But then closing time comes around and their told that they had to leave unless they were representing a private club. Someone promptly declares that they are in fact the Norwegian Club in London.
Good luck trying that the next time you hear the last order bell in the pub!
The story is oddly fortuitous because the site of 21-24 Cockspur Street did used to be the White Hart Inn during the 17th century. It was replaced by houses in the 1750s which were then demolished in 1914.
The headquarters became vital during WWII when Norwegian institutions were housed there, it was also regularly visited by the exiled Norwegian Government along with King Haakon VII.
Norway House was sold in 1997 and The Norwegian Club moved to St James’s Square. The site is now occupied by the restaurant; Thai Square.
MORE LONDON INSPIRATION
Look closer and there's something very odd about the former Wickhams Department Store on Mile End Road, it's a case of mind the gap!...