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Norwegian Mission Church, Swansea, Glamorgan

Name: Seaman's Mission

Denomination: Mission

Built: 1900
Rebuilt in Swansea: 1910
Photography: John Ball
Date: 21 Jan 1998
Camera: Agfa ePhoto307 digital compact

Note 1: Initially erected in Newport c.1900, it was moved to Swansea in 1910. The building comprised a Seaman's Mission at its western end and a Gothic style church at its eastern end, a low rendered building, formerly of corrugated iron. Gable entry type.
[Source: Coflein database of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (accessed 19 June 2015)]

Norwegian Mission Church, Swansea
Above: Norwegian Mission Church in its original location in Swansea.

Note 2: The Norwegian Church is a Grade II listed building in the docklands area of Swansea. The church building was originally located at Newport Docks. The building consists of a Seaman’s Mission to the west end and a single gothic church to the east end. It was originally built as a place of worship for Norwegian sailors when they visited the UK. It was relocated to Swansea in 1910 at a site directly opposite the Sainsbury's supermarket on the River Tawe. In 1966 the Norwegian Seamen's Mission in Bergen told the last minister, Pastor Somerset, to abandon the Mission and return to Norway. However, a Norwegian who had settled in Swansea, Eric Benneche, wrote to the Bishop of Bergen offering to run the church from the expatriate community's own resources. Permission was granted and the Bishop visited the church in person to present them with the key. Mr.Benneche was also allowed to officiate as a lay pastor at services, christenings, weddings and funerals. He was followed in 1968 by the Reverend Vivian James (1927–2011) who kept the church going for a further thirty years. He had been a missionary to Lapland, Norway from 1953–1967 and preached in both English and Norwegian. When Pastor James retired in 1997 the lease on the church was not renewed and the last working Seamen's Mission Church in Britain closed for good. With the redevelopment of the district, the building had to be relocated again. The building was covered in scaffolding and carefully dismantled and relocated off Langdon Road, alongside two other historic listed buildings: the Ice House and J Shed.
[Source: Wikipedia online encyclopaedia (accessed 19 Jun 2015)]

Note 3: A Norwegian community has long been present at Swansea – their number reaching a climax in the early 1900s 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 two weeks at a time, were religious people and originally attended church service in the town in a sailmaker's 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.
The church now (2015) houses a jeweller's studio and gallery.
[Source: Explore Gower website where further details are available (accessed 19 Jun 2015)]

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