Den Norske Klub has been a central social meeting place for Norwegians in London for over 125 years. With 150 members, and sharing premises with the social club In & Out in Mayfair, the Norwegian club hosts events throghout the year, including the annual May 17th celebration.
Guests this year included the Norwegian Minister of Defence, Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor The Lady Flight, and The Ambassador of Norway, Ms Mona Juul.
DNK was founded in 1887 on 17th May, Norway’s Constitution Day. It is the oldest club of its kind in the UK and is still an important meeting place for the Norwegian community in London.
The Klub owes its existence to a dozen young Norwegians who were celebrating their national day in a bar that year. When, at closing time, they were told they could stay only if they were representing a private club, one of the participants had the presence of mind to declare, “Well, we represent the Norwegian Club in London.” They jotted down some articles of association on a piece of paper , which they all signed, and that allowed them to carry on drinking – Den Norske Klub was born.
The first meetings took place every Thursday evening in a pub and the membership fee was fixed at 1 shilling per month. Most of the members were young men in their 20s who had come to London to study or to train as businessmen, particularly in shipping. The resident Norwegian colony, including the older gentlemen, were at first sceptical to the Klub but became involved after about 1900. In these early years, membership varied between 20-odd and about 50 members.
Women were originally only admitted as guests at dinners and balls, but gained the right to become members themselves in 1982.
The Second World War 1939-1945
For the first few decades, the Klub held its meetings and dances at a variety of hotels, inns and pubs in central locations around London. This changed in 1924, when DNK moved to ‘Norway House’ off Trafalgar Square, occupying the top three floors. This building in Cockspur Street came to play an important role during World War II, when many Norwegian institutions and government bodies were housed there. King Haakon VII and the members of his Norwegian government-in-exile became regular visitors to the Klub.
King Haakon VII became DNK’s first patron. His son, King Olav V, was honorary president from 1957 until his death in 1991. The present HM King Harald V, HM Queen Sonja, HH Princess Märtha Louise and Mr Ari Mikael Behn are honorary members today.
In 1997, ‘Norway House’ was sold and, after a couple of years sharing the premises of the Danish Club, the club moved to the Naval & Military Club, also known as The In & Out, in 2000.
Norway House still exists at Piccadilly Square. The building is still marked with Norway House and the statue of St Olav is still standing there, but today the Thai Square are using the property.
Catharina M. Patjas is the Chairman of the club today, and she showed Norwegians Worldwide around in the beautiful club premises. She could tell us that their membership group range from 20-95 years, and that some of the members were present in Norway House during WWII and has a lot of interesting stories to tell. Most of the members are between 30-40 years, and use the club frequently.
The next event they are holding is the Friday drink September 2, perfect for meeting other Norwegians in London.