St. Olaf House rushes into Building Top 10

Just as art deco’s clean lines became Bauhaus’s hard edges, St Olaf House was built. I’ve seen it 4 times in 4 days, and each time my love for it has grown to encompass some new detail or other. There’s a gorgeous flickr set here. I love the river view. But I would kill to know how they came up with Tooley Street entrance. Another great view of it here. The reason for the tribute to Olaf is itself fascinating.

The history of Tooley Street is closely connected to the parish of St Olave. The Viking invasions of Eastern England in the ninth century had resulted in settlement of Danes in London, and the early 11th century saw a second wave of unrest with claims on the Anglo Saxon throne from the Kings of Norway and Denmark. In one of many raids along English river estuaries, the Norse King, Olaf, reached the City in 1014 destroying London Bridge and defeating Danish resistance.

Subsequently Olaf was honoured by the dedication of a Church to him near the site, St Olave’s, which became established as the parish name for the next nine hundred years. By the mid-16th century, the spoken name had become corrupted to “St. Towlles”, and it is recorded as such on Braun and Hogenberg’s map of 1572. “Tooley” derives from this pronunciation.

Tooley Street itself was a key route from the river crossing at London Bridge eastwards to the inner dock area of the pool of London. On Braun and Hogenberg’s map, the route is called Battle Bridge and the area between it and river is already shown fully developed. The name Battle Bridge, which refers to the residence there of the Abbots of Battle, is preserved in Battlebridge Lane, which now runs between Tooley Street and the river on the east side of the Hay’s Galleria.
Post 1600

By the 17th century the economic strength of the Tooley Street wharves was well established. In 1651 Alexander Hay took over property, which became known as Hay’s Dock. Over the following centuries the business expanded steadily until in the 20th century it owned warehousing on much of the land between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.

Is there any crappy and unremarkable street in London that doesn’t have an absurdly distinguished history?


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