A photograph of a wall of traditional Ukrainian icon paintings in a church.
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The History of Ukrainians in England

Discover how Ukrainian communities have adapted buildings to create spaces for worship, education and community activity.

Since at least the 19th century, people from Ukraine have migrated to England.

The first recorded Ukrainians arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century when several hundred people moved from Western Ukraine to Manchester.

Some returned home, while others moved to the USA or Canada, but a small community remained in the city.

A black and white photograph of dancers in front of a stage with a band playing.
Traditional Ukrainian dance performing at the Edgerton Hill Ukrainian Community Centre in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. © Edgerton Hill Ukrainian Community Centre.

Between 1946 and 1950, with the Soviet Union occupying Ukraine following the Second World War, around 35,000 Ukrainians came to the United Kingdom as part of the European Volunteer Workers scheme.

This intended to address labour shortages by providing jobs to displaced people.

A black and white photograph of a group of people.
Second World War Ukrainian refugees at a hostel in Bedhampton, Hampshire. Source: Ukrainians in the United Kingdom.

Where did Ukrainian people settle in England?

Some Ukrainians got jobs in industries such as mining and settled in the industrial towns of northern and central England.

Others settled in agricultural areas in the South and East of England.

A black and white photograph of a group of people reading books.
The Bradford branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain opened in 1948. © AUGB Bradford Branch.

One significant community settled in Cornwall, where, in 1947, many Ukrainian refugees were employed as agricultural workers. Others contributed to the mining and fishing industries.

Some were accommodated in a hostel between Mylor Bridge and Restronguet Barton, thought to have been a German prisoner of war camp and known locally as ‘the gun sites’.

A photograph of a white stone cross with a tree to the left.
The Grade II listed Ukrainian Cross at Mylor Bridge in Cornwall. © Historic England Archive. View image DP324888.

In 1948, the refugees built a Ukrainian cross near their hostel to symbolise their strong faith.

More Ukrainians migrated to England following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 and, recently, to escape the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The inscription on the Ukrainian Cross at Mylor Bridge in Cornwall. © Historic England Archive. View image DP324888.

How Ukrainian communities have adapted existing buildings

Ukrainian communities have often adapted existing buildings to create worship, education and community activity spaces.

Several buildings across England represent the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Many feature the installation of ‘iconostasis’, a wall of icon paintings.

A photograph of a screen of traditional Ukrainian religious paintings in a church.
The iconostasis in St Mary Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Bradford, West Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive. View image DP371835.

In Liverpool, the Catholic church of St Sebastian’s also hosts the local Ukrainian Catholic community.

The Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London is housed in the former King’s Weight House Church, designed by the famous architect Alfred Waterhouse.

A photograph of a 19th century red brick cathedral.
The Grade II* listed Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London. © Historic England Archive. View image DP150950.

Ukrainian communities in the North of England

Ukrainian communities have a powerful connection to the North of England, particularly in towns and cities in the North West and Yorkshire, including Manchester, Liverpool, Rochdale and Bradford.

Ukrainians in Manchester

Between 1921 and 1954, Ukrainians in Manchester held their services at St Chad’s, in the church itself until 1933 and then until 1940 in the church school’s chapel.

They later returned to the church after the school was bomb-damaged.

A photograph of the inside of a church.
Inside the Grade II listed Roman Catholic Church of St Chad and Presbytery of St Chads in Manchester. © Historic England Archive. View image DP371848.

Manchester is also home to the Dormition of the Holy Mary Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church, the first church owned by the Ukrainian Catholics in England.

It was designated a ‘sobor’ (mother church) when it was consecrated by the Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop in 1954.

The Manchester Ukrainian Cultural Centre is located in Cheetham Hill, where Ukrainian immigrants made their home after the Second World War.

The centre, named ‘Dnipro’ after the Ukrainian city, provides services including a Saturday School, a choir, dance ensembles, and a pensioner’s lunch club.

A photograph of protestors holding a banner reading: Manchester UKRAINIANS'.
A ‘Stand with Ukraine’ anti-war rally, protesting the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester on 21 May 2022. © Terry Waller / Alamy Live News.

Ukrainians in Rochdale, Greater Manchester

In 1992, Rochdale was twinned with the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

In 2002, to mark the 10th anniversary of the twinning, a bridge over the river Roch was named the Lviv Bridge. A plaque on the bridge bears the coats of arms of both places.

A photograph of a plaque on a bridge with text in both English and Ukrainian. The English part reads: LVIV BRIDGE 10th Anniversary Twinning of Rochdale - Lviv 1992-2002'.
The plaque on the Lviv bridge in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Source: inyourarea.co.uk.

The Rochdale Branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain was established in 1948. It currently hosts several groups, including a Ukrainian youth group and choir.

The town was the first in the UK to honour the victims of the man-made Holodomor famine in Soviet Ukraine between 1932 and 1933, which killed millions of Ukrainians.

The council was also the first in England to recognise the Holodomor as an act of genocide.

A photograph of a memorial in a garden with text in both English and Ukrainian. The English part reads: 1932 - 1933 Ukrainian Famine AN ACT OF GENOCIDE HOLODOMOR'.
The Ukrainian Famine memorial in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. © Jackie Ellis / Alamy Stock Photo.

Ukrainians in Oldham, Greater Manchester

Built as an Anglican church in 1889, the Ukrainian Catholic Church of All Saints & Sts Peter & Paul in Oldham was adopted by Ukrainians in 1987, replacing the nearby former school where services were previously held.

It has a plaque on the outside commemorating 1000 years of Christianity in Ukraine and a carved ‘baldacchino’ (a four-legged canopy) over the altar.

A photograph of inside a church, decorated with a painted red roof and golden icon paintings.
The Grade II listed church of SS Peter and Paul and All Saints in Oldham, Greater Manchester. © Historic England Archive. View image DP371855.

Ukrainians in Liverpool, Merseyside

In 1957, the Labour MP Bessie Braddock forged a link with the Ukrainian city of Odesa, and city councillors participated in exchange visits between the two cities.

The links were revived in the 1990s. The connection between the two cities has been highlighted again recently, with Liverpool chosen to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine.

A photograph of a bronze statue of a woman in a train station.
A statue of Bessie Braddock MP by sculptor Tom Murphy at Lime Street station in Liverpool. © John Davidson Photos / Alamy Stock Photo.

Ukrainians in Bradford, West Yorkshire

After the Second World War, Ukrainian refugees found work in Bradford’s wool industry.

The Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church, built between 1854 and 1855 as the Eccleshill Methodist Chapel, was purchased in 1964 by members of the Ukrainian community.

A photograph of a 2 storey brick church.
The Grade II listed St Mary Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Bradford, West Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive. View image DP371830.

Mounted on top of the porch is a large Ukrainian three-barred cross. On the front of the church is a plaque to remember the victims of the Holodomor famine.

In the North Bierley Municipal Cemetery, a striking monument erected by the Ukrainian community pays tribute to those who gave their lives for their country.

A photograph of a cemetery with a prominent obelisk-shaped monument.
The Grade II listed Ukrainian Community Memorial in North Bierley Municipal Cemetery, Bradford, West Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive. View image DP371861.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity & Our Lady of Pochaiv was built between 1878 and 1879 in the Victorian Gothic style.

It opened as a Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1966.

A photograph of a 19th century Victorian Gothic cathedral with a Ukrainian flag flying from the window.
The Grade II listed Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity & Our Lady of Pochaiv in Bradford, West Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive. DP371839.

A decorative iconostasis was added, and there is a large painting of the crucifixion by a Yugoslavian-born Ukrainian artist.

A photograph of a painting of the crucifuxion.
A painting of the crucifixion in the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity & Our Lady of Pochaiv in Bradford, West Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive. View image DP371842.

Ukrainians in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Edgerton Hill was built as a villa around 1820. It was purchased by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain in 1964.

A year later, it opened as the Huddersfield Ukrainian Club.

A photograph of a 19th century 2 storey stone building with a Ukrainian flag flying outside.
The Grade II listed Edgerton Hill Ukrainian Community Centre in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive. View image DP371844.

By the late 1960s, the club had 230 registered members with their families. It continues to serve as a meeting place for its members, hosting events and celebrations.

In 2018, a memorial was unveiled, marking 70 years of the Ukrainian community in Huddersfield.

A photograph of a group of people gathered for a Christian mass in a garden.
Mass being performed in the grounds of the Edgerton Hill Ukrainian Community Centre in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in the 1960s or 1970s. © The Edgerton Hill Ukrainian Community Centre.

More sites in England with Ukrainian history

Ukrainian history can be found all across England, sometimes in unlikely places.

The New House in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, was built in 1964 for the academic Milton Grundy.

Its Japanese style garden was designed by the Chinese-Ukrainian artist Viacheslav Atroshenko, who had recently visited Kyoto in Japan with Grundy.

A photograph of a Japanese style garden, with several different trees and shrubs.
The Grade II* listed Japanese Garden at New House in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. © Historic England Archive. View image DP138632.

Born in Shanghai to Ukrainian immigrants, Atroshenko was a scholar in art and architecture. In 1991, he and Grundy published ‘Mediterranean Vernacular: A Vanishing Architectural Tradition’.

Other examples include the church of St Mark in Coventry in the West Midlands, which from 1965 was used by the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church before its conversion to a hospital department in 1973.

There’s also the church of the Holy Trinity in Hempton, Norfolk. It has a painted cross suspended above the high altar, carved by a former Ukrainian prisoner of war.

In May 2023, we celebrated Ukrainian heritage with new listings in the North of England, ahead of Liverpool hosting Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine.

Further reading

12 comments on “The History of Ukrainians in England

  1. On the Palace Green in Ely, adjacent to the cathedral is a Russian cannon which was captured during the Crimean War and presented by Queen Victoria in 1860 to the Ely Rifle Volunteers. When we visited in May it was draped in a Ukrainian flag with garlands of flowers.

    • Neil Holloway

      It still has the flowers and flag in it, although the cathedral no longer lights up in blue and yellow at night, unfortunately.

    • Sonia Wojtkowych

      My Dad was a DP in Ely. Mum’s from Ely. Climbed on that cannon many times as a child visiting grandparents, aunts & uncles and cousins in Ely.

  2. Very interesting information, always would like to find more about Ukrainians in the UK. I am delighted to meet Ukrainians in Edinburgh where is also long history. I Live in North East of England, if someone know any information please share.

  3. It is so much appreciated that you recognised Ukrainian input, Diiakuu. Thank you !

  4. Lucy Johnson

    Glad to be back at this blog again – I saw a pretty extraordinary historic England site yesterday at Mistley – the Towers but it seems doubtful whether it has any connection to Ukraine. However you NEVER know. I will try and find a tenuous connection!

  5. John Welsby

    Wolverhampton has a Ukrainian Catholic Church – and a Ukrainian Community Centre opposite which has been actively involved in welcoming our Ukrainian guests in the City in recent months. The church has regular services and is very attractively decorated inside. We attended a service earlier this year to mark the City’s support for refugees – which was (very helpfully) conducted partly in English.

  6. My parents, sister, and a large group of their friends from Ukraine were in a Displaced Persons camp outside Kiel, Germany after World War II. England granted them residency in Rushden, Northamptonshire in 1947. My family were sponsored by the amazing Ada and Amos Garley (deceased and buried in the nearby cemetery). We lived at 18 Cromwell Road on the third floor. This was the Lords’ house and they rented the space. My father first worked on a farm and later as a taxi driver. Mother first worked in service and later at Grenson shoe factory across the street for 10 years. My parents and their Ukrainian group were in their early ’20s. My sister grew up in Rushden – education, English culture, ballet classes, social circles, St Mary’s down the road. They all learned a new, freedom filled life. I was born in 1955. We emigrated to Philadelphia in 1957 to reunite with my father’s family, who settled there after the DP camp. Now I’m back in England since 2015. Forever grateful to the UK, for Mr and Mrs Garley, the Lords, and the community in Rushden.

    • Kevin JOSEPH Bergin

      My father worked at Ferrersflex on the Newton Road, Higham Ferrers. He worked with many Ukrainian people there. As they all attended the Catholic church at the bottom of Higham hill we were invited to family gatherings. When the present terrible situation with Putin’s war. We have taken a wonderful Ukraine lady into our home. I had known Marina from talking with her for nearly 6 years. But to get her here and allow her to be safe is such a reward. It all happened because of those wonderful people from my childhood.

  7. Elain Harwood

    In Nottingham the Ukrainian community have taken over G. F. Bodley’s St Alban, Bond Street, 1885-7, and Clutton Lodge, one of the best houses by the irrepressible local architect Watson Fothergill, 1885, is now a Ukrainian social centre – both fine buildings in good hands

  8. A J Paxton

    There is a Ukrainian Catholic Church on Broad Street in Coventry, just up the road from St Mark’s pictured above. It occupies a wooden chapel built by the Methodists to replace a building destroyed in World War 2. It has been a Ukrainian church since the 1960s.

  9. For a detailed history of the ukrainian community in halifax west yorkshire read the online biography of josef kuzio

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