The Village of Sandringham in Norfolk

Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography

The Royal Estate of Sandringham is one of the Queens country estates, purchased in the spring of 1882 from the Hon Charles Spencer Cowper as a country estate for the Prince of Wales by Queen Victoria. Charles Spencer Cowper was a gambler and had the knickname of "Expensive Cowper". At the age of 30 he had inherited two Norfolk estates, Beachemwell and Sandringham.

When his debts increased he sold the estate of 7,000 acres to the monarchy and it was to Sandringham that the future King Edward VII brought his new wife Princess Alexandra of Denmark to Sandringham in 1863. Edward VII used to hold New Year shooting parties at Sandringham.  He was so fond of shooting that he turned all the clocks at Sandringham back by half an hour to make the most of the winter daylight hours. Thus coining the name ‘Sandringham Time’. King George V maintained this custom, but his son King Edward VIII abolished it on his accession in 1936.

Edward VII son George was not the heir apparent. That title belonged to his elder brother Prince Albert Victor, who was nicknamed Eddy. Prince Albert was born prematurely on 8th January 1864 and by all accounts did not enjoy very good physical health nor was he considered very intelligent and was always being overshadowed by his younger brother George.  For his birthday celebration in 1892 Prince Albert was at Sandringham, also in attendance was his fiancée Mary of Teck (Princess May) the daughter of Queen Victoria’s cousin. 

Unfortunately after a day spent hunting Prince Albert developed a bad cough, a doctor was called who diagnosed pneumonia and influenza. Eddy never recovered from this illness and died at Sandringham on the 14th January 1892 and so it was that his brother became the heir and eventually became King. George also married his brother’s fiancée Princess May. Their eldest son, David the Duke of Windsor was born at White Lodge Surrey in June 1894. He later became Edward VIII, King of England but abdicated in order to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson.

The Royal Family still spend Christmas at Sandringham remaining there normally until February. The house, grounds and museum are open to the public. When The Queen or members of the Royal Family are in residence, the house is open to the public

The royal residence of Sandringham in Norfolk is said to derive its name from a shortened version of ‘Sant Dersingham’ the sandy part of Dersingham. For those wishing to stay near to Sandringham, the nearby village of Dersingham (under 2 miles) with its 'ginger bread houses' offers a wide range of accommodation. Dersingham village has a good range of amenities with a supermarket, butcher, Chinese take-away, fish & chip shop  and two pubs offering restaurant and bar meals.

The coastal resort of  Snettisham is only a few miles away.  Here you will also find Snettisham RSPB Reserve with its hides and flooded former gravel pits.

Five miles away is the busier seaside resort of Hunstanton with its sandy beaches, indoor swimming pool and other sporting and leisure facilities.  Lots of entertainment for the children here with a fair, donkey rides and Sea Life Sanctuary containing displays of life under the ocean waves.

On the Sandringham estate is Park House which was leased by the Spencer family and was the birthplace of Lady Diana Spencer. Sandringham Country Park is open all year an area of 250 hectares (over 600 acres) of carefully managed woodland and heath.  Sandringham Estate hosts craft fairs and country shows throughout the year.

In the grounds of the Royal Residency of Sandringham not far from the main house stands York Cottage. This was the home to the Duke of York Prince George, the future King George V of England. His father had given him York Cottage as a wedding gift, and it was here that he spent his honeymoon with his bride.

The house was considered both small, and badly laid out, certainly not large enough for the six children that the royal couple eventually had, many of whom were born within the cottage itself. Yet Prince George is said to have loved it, even after the death of his father King Edward VII, King George still lived at York Cottage. Leaving his mother Alexandra to live in the large residence of Sandringham all by herself, apart from a large contingent of staff that is.

Many famous people were born at York Cottage:

George VI Windsor King of England December 1895
Mary Windsor Princess Royal April 1897
Duke Henry William Frederick Windsor March 1900
George Edward Alexander Windsor Duke of Kent December 1902
Prince John Charles Francis Windsor 1905

Prince John was the youngest son of George V and Queen Mary. He was diagnosed as an epileptic and also suffered from autistic-like learning difficulties. He was hidden away by his family at Wood Farm some three miles from the Sandringham estate. Excluded from the official family photographs, and not allowed to attend his fathers coronation, Prince John rarely saw his parents the King and Queen of England. 

He died in his sleep at Wood Farm Wolferton aged just 14, and was buried at Sandringham Church. The BBC brought to light the sad and tragic story of this forgotten prince in a recent dramatisation entitled The Lost Prince.

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