Mitcham, St Olave, Mitcham
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St. Olave's was built to serve the rapid rise in house building that took place locally in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The present church, whilst not looking much from the outside (the originally conceived design has never been completed), takes on a very different aspect when you enter the west door. It was designed by Arthur Martin, an architect whose stature is now beginning to be more widely recognized than was once the case. The church is built, in brick and concrete, on an imposing scale in Byzantine style. Its walls are deep and substantial, at the same time allowing plenty of natural light to enter, giving the clear impression of permanence, and are topped by a substantial dome. Many have entered what appears from the outside to be an uninspiring building to find themselves in wonder at the spacious and, at the same time, intimate and contemplative interior space.
St. Olave's inherited its name from a former church building in Tooley Street (just at the foot of London Bridge), where a millennium ago St. Olaf saved the city of London from its and his enemy, the Danes. The Nursery Rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down records the story. St. Olaf was converted to Christianity in England and took the faith home to his native Norway, where, after his death in battle against his old enemy, the Danes, he was adopted as the country's Patron Saint. His bones rest in Trondheim Cathedral.
At one time there was a church bearing his name at the foot of the steps leading down from London Bridge Station to Tooley Street (an English corruption of St. Olaf, as is our modern St. Olave). The church was eventually sold and demolished - an office block in Art Deco style now stands on the site, on the side of which is an incised outline of the saint. You will also find his statue in the reredos of Southwark Cathedral and on the south side of Trafalgar Square, opposite the National Gallery (best viewed from the top deck of a bus), in the facade of what was once the Norwegian Embassy.
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London, SW16 5QQ
The current editor is: Keith Penny