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Swedish trade links with London have existed for many hundreds of years but grew rapidly in the 17th century. With so many Swedish sailors, traders, bankers, shop keepers and business men coming and going in London it is not surprising that eventually a Swedish Church was necessary to serve their religious needs. Thus in 1710 a Swedish congregation was formed and in 1728 the Ulrika Eleonora Church was built. This church, named after the Queen of Sweden born in 1688, the same year as Emanuel Swedenborg’s birth, was placed in the Wapping area of East London, in Princes Square, near the docks from where the great Swedish merchant ships would come and go. The Swedish congregation was linked to the Diocese of Uppsala and came under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Uppsala.

Emanuel Swedenborg visited and stayed in London on many occasions, his first visit being in 1710 at the time the Swedish Congregation was being formed. No doubt on his later trips he took interest in the Ulrika Eleonora church as it was being built and the congregation grew and later on he attended services there. Over the years Swedenborg lodged in various places; in the Minories, in Fetter Lane, in Wellclose Square close to Princes Square, and finally in Cold Bath Square, Clerkenwell. About a fortnight before his death in 1772 he received Holy Communion from Rev Arvid Ferelius, pastor of the Swedish Church. Because this church was the centre for Swedish people in London it is not surprising that on his death, Emanuel Swedenborg’s body was laid to rest in the vaults. And there it would have probably remained to this day had not the need to develop and build in London at the beginning of the 20th century forced the demolition of the 200 year old Ulrika Eleonora church. The church closed in 1910 and was finally demolished in 1921.

As a result of this a new Swedish Church had to be built elsewhere in London to which the altar, the pulpit and many other objects from the former church were transferred. The Swedish Government also decided that it would be appropriate to remove the remains of certain Swedish people buried at the church and return them to Sweden. So it was that on April 7, 1908, the coffin of Emanuel Swedenborg left England with great ceremony and was carried on board the cruiser Fylgia which had been sent by the Swedish government. After the voyage to Sweden the coffin was placed in a magnificent marble sarcophagus in the cathedral at Uppsala. The picture on the left shows the procession leaving the Swedish Church.

Swedenborg was not alone in this process. Captain Cook once lived in this part of London, having married a girl from Wapping, and on his first Endeavour voyage he took with him the ‘Swedish gentleman’ Daniel Solander as a botanist and doctor. Daniel was a pupil of Linnaeus and on his death in 1782 he was also buried in the vaults of the Swedish Church. His remains, like Swedenborg’s were removed to Sweden in 1908, although in Solander’s case it was to Stockholm.

swedish church

 

The ground on which the church stood was made into a garden and in 1938 Princes Square was renamed Swedenborg Gardens. In the late 1960’s the area was developed again and new blocks of flats built but a small park area with the memorial to the Ulrika Eleonora church was maintained. In the last few years the site has been re-landscaped but the church memorial remains sadly neglected (see picture on the right).

 

So, just a mile east of the Tower of London, in an area just north of the river Thames you can find a part of London which was once closely associated with Emanuel Swedenborg and his work and life in England.

 

 

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