Margaret Sophia Green Kvikne

31st Dec. 1850 – 24th Jan. 1894

The English clergyman’s daughter who inspired the building of S. Olaf’s Church, Balestrand.

Margaret Sophia Green was born and raised in Birkin Vicarage (near Leeds and Selby, Yorkshire) – the eldest daughter of the Revd Valentine Green’s second marriage to Spophia. Her father died when Margaret was 22 and, along with some members of the family, she moved to Leicester. In 1886, already an experienced mountain climber, she made her first visit to Norway. On 16th July 18888 Margaret arrived in Balholm and met Knut Kvikne, a mountain guide and, with his brother Ole, proprietor of the Kvikne’s Hotel. Margaret and Knut were married four years later, in 1892.

Sadly, the marriage lasted under two years, as Margaret died as a result of the (Russian) flu pandemic/tuberculosis in January 1894. She was buried in Tjugum churchyard, across the fjord from Balestrand. Margaret had already planned to have an English church built in Balestrand and, on her deathbed, made Knut promise that he would erect a church.

Knut kept his word, the Kvikne family providing the site and much of the cost being born by two American ladies, Gertrude Abbott and Elisabeth Winslow Peters. On 18th July 1897 St. Olaf’s Anglican Church – built in the style of a Norwegian stave church – was completed and dedicated.

Margaret’s life – before marriage

Margaret’s father, Valentine Green (born 1800) – a descendant of Oliver Cromwell – had moved in 1835 from Knipton, in Leicestershire, to be the Rector of the parish of St. Mary the Virgin, Birkin, with St. John the Babtist, Haddlesey. The family consisted of his wife, Anna Barbara (née Vaughan), their 3 year-old son Valentine, 1 year-old daughter Emily, and the new baby Elizabeth. Another son, Thomas Hill, was born in Birkin on 7th April 1836.

(Thomas Hill Green subsequently became a successful academic and was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford in 1878. He became the leading figure in ‘ethical socialism’, with great sympathy towards the suffering of the poorer classes, and was a Temperance reformer (at Oxford he looked after his alcoholic brother, Valentine). He married Charlotte Symmonds and died, childless, in 1882).

Anna Barbara, the Rector’s wife, died of typhus on 12th April 1837, and was buried in the churchyard three days later.

Valentine Green later married Sophia Lilly (Feb. 1850), and their first daughter Margaret Sophia was born in 31 Dec. 1850. Three other children were then born – Robert Valentine, 9 April 1852 (died 3 Feb 1853), Catherine Georgiana, 11 Jul. 1853 and Arthur Valentine, 13 Jan. 1856.

We know that Thomas Hill Green was educated entirely at home, before going to Rugby school at 14, and it is reasonable to assume that the other children, including Margaret Sophia, were also taught in the large twelve-roomed Rectory. (Valentine Green had received his Cambridge MA when he was 25; his first wife was from an extremely academic family; and it was not unusual for such clergy families to have home-based education.)

In the 1861 census the Rectory housed ten people. This included, among others, the 10 year-old Margaret Sophia and three servants. Thomas, aged 25, was already lecturing at Oxford University. The house passed into private hands some years back and has recently been restored and re-occupied.

The old hand-operated water pump is still a fixture in the back yard, and we may picture the children ‘helping’ Ann Keightley – the housemaid – fetch in buckets of water for the meals and for washing and bathing.

St. Mary’s Church, Birkin, dated back to the early 11th century, some 100 years earlier than the earliest Norwegian stave churches with which it became indirectly linked, through the inspiration of Margaret Sophia Green Kvikne. The south aisle (seen above) was added in 1328, but little has been changed in the one thousand years that is has housed a worshipping community. Its most special feature is the Norman apse (semi-circular East-end), one of the very few remaining in Britain. This is another link to Norway and the apse of St. Olaf’s, Balestrand. The Church is some 100 meters or so down the village road from the rectory.

Being the Rector of Birkin was then a wealthy living for a clergyman. In 1865 the rector’s income was £1050, one of the richest livings in York Diocese (roughly £100, 000 / 1 million NOK today!). Tithes brought in an extra £626.

The village’s population was then given as 821. In 2001 it was only 146, the large families of 8 or 10 children and a rural community relying on great numbers of agricultural workers both being consigned to history.

Aged 73 years and still in the post, the Revd. Valentine Green died in 1873. Within a few months of his death, the remaining family would have been obliged to leave the rectory. The 1881 census shows Margaret Sophia living with Emily and Elizabeth (her half-sisters) and Catherine (her younger sister) in Leicester. Sometime between 1873 and 1886 Margaret took up mountain climbing in a serious way. By the time she first visited Norway (1886) she was already an experienced climber. On 23rd July that year she reached the top of the Buar glacier in Hardanger. A renowned pioneering rock-climber, she became only the second woman to climb the steep Romsdalshorn. She moved on to Geiranger and ended her tour by visiting Fantoft Stave Church in Bergen. Here perhaps the seed was sown for her later idea of an English “stave” church.


On 16th July 1888 Margaret Sophia Green first visited Balholm, arriving on one the thrice-weekly steamship services that had just been introduced. She soon met Knut Kvikne, one of the two brothers running the inn at Holmen in Balestrand. Knut organised leisure activities for guests and was an experienced mountain guide and had an excellent command of English (from his time in America). She fell in love with the tall handsome Knut and returned the following year to spend time in Balholm and district. Margaret and Knut were married in Bergen Register Office in August 1892.

She never felt entirely at home in the Norwegian Church, and also believed that the many English (and other) tourists visiting Balestrand would appreciate Church Services in English, using normal Anglican worship. Even before she became ill – during the autumn of 1893 – she began to raise money for her projected church, as well as continuing to help in the running of the hotel. The tuberculosis took its course but, as she lay dying, Margaret made her husband promise to erect an English church in Balestrand.

Margaret Sophia Green Kvikne died on 24th Januar 1894. Knut kept his word and on 18th July 1897 the church was completed and dedicated.

St. Olaf’s Church (Sant Olaf Kirke) was designed by Zetlitz Kielland, who based his design on the Norwegian stave churches. As with Margaret’s home church in Birkin, the apsidal east end in prominent.

There are 9 Saints’ windows in St. Olaf’s church (see separate leaflet). The one featuring St. Margaret (1046-1093) – the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, King of Wessex, is the first window, possibly as the church was inspired by Margaret Sophia Green Kvikne.

Timeline of key dates

1850 Birth of Margaret Sophia Green Berkin Rectory, Yorkshire, UK.
1872 1st Anglican presence (chaplaincy) in Norway – at Balholm (Balestrand). Listed in SPG European Chaiplaincy Minutes.
1877 (Feb) Ole Kvigne buys the Holmen shop/inn. Ole and Knut later changed their name to Kvikne.
1885 (July) 1st package holiday to Norway. By Thomas Cook’s Scandinavian Manager
1886 (23 July) Margaret S Green arrives in Bergen.  
1888 (16 July) Margaret S Green visits Balholm for the 1st time.  
1889 (17, 20, 22 March) Margaret conducts Services at Balholm (for SPG). At Kvikne hotel.
1892 (2 Aug.) Margaret and Knut Andersen Kvikne marry in Bergen. Margaret Kvikne helps run the Hotel. She starts to collect money for an ‘English Church’. Bergen Byfogd (Register Office).


Flowers, kitchen menus etc.

Encourages others (Gertrude Abbot and Elizabeth Winslow Peters, etc)


1893/4 An ill Margaret asks Knut to build her ‘English Church’.  
1894 (24 Jan.) Margaret Sophia Green Kvikne dies. TB+Asian/Russian flu – paralysis of the heart.
          (1 Feb.) Margaret is buried at Tjugum church. Service taken by Revd Harald Ulrik Sverdrup.
1896 (12 April) Ole Kvikne hands over land at Midnesbakken to Anglican Church. New church, designed by Zetlutz Kielland – based on the Vang Stave Church. Vang church moved to Bruckenberge (SE Germany, now Karpacz in Poland.
1897 (18 July) S Olaf’s Church opened and dedicated  
1898 Canon Hutchinson gave/offered the 9 stained glass saints’ windows. Chaplain at Balholm Dec. 1897; Offer accepted by SPG.


Text and research by John Roden (York) 2007, revised in 2014.