St Olave Southwark - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Olave Southwark

• St Olave's Church, Southwark is believed to be mentioned in the Domesday Book, it became redundant in 1926 and was demolished.

• Olav or Olaf was an early King of Norway who attempted to convert his people to Christianity and was martyred for his trouble in 1030. Before this, in 1014, he was a prince and an ally of Ethelred II fighting the Danes. In the battle for London Bridge he is said to have tied his long-boats to the bridge supports and rowing away pulled it down. Whatever the veracity of these exploits he became a popular saint in England. Five other churches in the City were dedicated to him. • It is likely that it is St Olave’s which is the church mentioned in the Southwark Domesday entry and that seemed to have royal patronage before the Conquest. The church’s probable beginning is as a Godwin private chapel. Godwin was ‘Earl of Wessex’ from at least 1018 and his Southwark interest was probably contemporary to this. Sometime between 1090 and 1121 the Warennes (successors to Odo) had given the church and neighbouring property to Lewes Priory.

• Although situated next to the old London Bridge, its parish took in the north-east end of the High Street and stretched out along to the east and to the south where it was limited by the Bermondsey parish.

• The Norman stone church, replacing the Saxon structure which may only have been of timber, was so close to the river, that when a terrible flood affected the Thames in 1327, it was reported that the tides had damaged the church walls and had washed away bodies from the churchyard. The Norman building partially collapsed through a combination of age, neglect and river subsidence in 1736. This was replaced in 1740 and was in turn severely damaged in the major 1843 Tooley Street fire.

• The church was again restored and was very much a docklands church but as the industrial expansion of the area led to population decline so too did the parish. In 1926 the church was declared redundant and the nave was demolished, leaving a forlorn tower, removed in 1928.

• The site became the head office of the Hay’s Wharf Company. This Art Deco building still stands, called ‘St Olaf’s House’, on Lower Tooley Street; it has an attractive and informative decoration on its façade about the church and its patron.

• The parish church was the originator of St Olave’s Grammer School for boys (renamed St Olave's and St Saviour's Grammar School in 1896), and from 1902 its foundation fund also applied to the girls school. A separate St Olave's Foundation Fund still supports local youth's educational and vocational aspirations through grants.


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