Three celebrations and a fairy story at historic Danish Church

Mon 20th May 2024
Three Celebrations And A Fairy Story At Historic Danish Church

A community which has developed in East Yorkshire around the oldest overseas Danish Church in the world came together in Hull to mark a special anniversary.

Guests from across the north gathered to celebrate their Scandinavian heritage and were joined by friends and former colleagues from Denmark. They remembered their time in Hull, they mourned the seafaring sector which fell into decline and they heard a modern fairy story by a man called Hans Christian Andersen.

The occasion was the 70th anniversary of the consecration of the Danish Church at the corner of Ferensway and Osborne Street. The milestone is particularly significant because the original St Nikolaj Danish Seamen’s Church, which was built in May 1871 in the same location, was bombed on the eve of its 70th anniversary.

Nobody was injured when the original church took a direct hit during a German air raid on the night of May 9, 1941, but the building was destroyed.

For the rest of the war Danish services continued at the former Mariners Club in Hull, which is now the Mission pub on the corner of Dagger Lane and Posterngate. But in September 1953 the foundation stone from the original church was recovered and became part of the new development.

The current church was consecrated on May 9, 1954. A seven-branched candelabra, which was retrieved from the rubble of the old church and then restored. Another relic is a small rosette of red glass which was also salvaged from the bomb site and which took pride of place in a window in the new building.

Services were held to mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the current building as well as the celebrations of 125 years of ministry, but plans for a 150-year celebration in 2021 were abandoned because of the pandemic. Pastor Arne Kristophersen, who served at the church in Hull from 2016 until 2019, returned from Copenhagen to conduct the latest service.

Anders Ellebaek served as an assistant in Hull and returned to Denmark in 2009. He was ordained and has served as a pastor ever since.

He said: “Unfortunately I had to leave Hull because Danish Church UK didn’t have enough funding for me to continue but I enjoyed my time here assisting the pastor. It was a varied role, sometimes driving Danish and Swedish seafarers around the area, cooking, gardening and painting.

“It was shame when the 150th anniversary celebration was cancelled but that made this event doubly special and I’ve been looking forward to it very much. There have been some big improvements to Hull, especially around the marina and I’ve enjoyed taking a look round.”

Hanne Hamilton, who lives in Beverley, has been going to the church since 1968 and was reunited with some old friends. She was accompanied by fellow Beverley resident Ingrid Roe, who came to East Yorkshire from Norway as a child and is a regular visitor to the Scandinavian Christmas Market – a highlight of the events programme at the church.

Bodil Fossing was the wife of Henrik Fossing, who was pastor at the Danish Church in Hull for eight years until 1982. She travelled from Copenhagen with one of her daughters, Christine. A second daughter, Birgitte, was born at Hedon Road Maternity Hospital while the family lived in Hull.

Bodil said: “I used to live in the house next to the church and I come back every year. It’s still like home and it’s nice to see all the people coming back to the church and celebrating together.”

Hanne added: “We no longer have a pastor here permanently so it is very important that we celebrate our milestones when we can. We used to get a lot of small fishing boats here from Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and a lot of Danes emigrated from Esbjerg but the shipping and fishing industries died.

“This church has been everything in my life. I come from the island of Samso and I was very homesick when I moved to Hull so the church was a godsend. Both of my children were confirmed here and I have been involved for a long, long time!”

Peter Aarosin, a prominent businessman in the Humber region and a trustee of the Danish Church, said: “We tried to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Danish Church in Hull but due to Covid we couldn’t do that.

“The original church was bombed before they could celebrate its 70th anniversary and it’s therefore very important that we have a really good celebration now for the 70th anniversary of the old church, the 70th anniversary of this church and the 150th anniversary as well!

“One of the things we have really got to do is pull together, look back at our history and remember that at the same time we are making history today so people can look back at us when they celebrate 200 years.”

Hans Christian Andersen, an academic and broadcaster who has worked with the Danish Church in Hull and Newcastle, also commented on the bombing of the original church. He said the idea that the RAF then bombed the Danish Church in Hamburg in retaliation was, in truth, no more than a fairy tale.

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The 70th anniversary service at the Danish Church in Hull.

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Pictured in the garden of the Danish Church are, from left, Hanne Hamilton, Ingrid Roe, Christine Fossing and Bodil Fossing.

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