Norfolk – Visiting Sandringham House
During our Norfolk tour we visited Sandringham, which is, as the publicity leaflet says, “The Norfolk Retreat of Her Majesty the Queen”.
It is also one of those places in Britain where trespassing could seriously damage your health, a location – certainly as far as the immediate environs of the House are concerned – where the civil tort of trespass becomes a criminal offence. Not to mention the possibility of getting shot by armed guards.
That being said, you can – for a fee – walk the grounds pretty freely when the Royals are not at home. The present draconian trespass laws were brought in, as I recall, by Tony Blair, more to keep the paparazzi at bay, rather than the hired assassins who tend to ignore such legal niceties.
There is an adjacent country park which offers free access all of the time, and another 20,000 acres of Norfolk, which presumably have the same rights of access as everywhere else. There does seem to be a policy of organic farming and hedgerow conservation.
Once you get to ignore the high-powered CCTV cameras and the sentry points (empty!) you can enjoy your stroll. And there are some very pleasant stretches of woodland, particularly if you go in bluebell time, as we did.
The grounds are really very modest, perhaps because the Family aren’t there very much, except for the shooting in the autumn and winter. If you are really into gardens, then the flagship National Trust properties of Norfolk have more to offer.
The outside of the House is not particularly attractive (the author of the Slow Guide to Norfolk and Suffolk compares it to an hotel in Cromer.) But the inside is interesting, and there are a number of features to the rooms which are quite fascinating, a feeling of a different age which is managing – in this house at least – to hold on. You really get the feeling that Edward VII might just have stepped out. In fact it is the historical photographs, many of which you will never see anywhere else, that need the most time to look at.
There are not many of Princess Diana. I think I spotted two.
You do get to see a lot of the ground floor, though quite a bit of the house – like the whole of upstairs – is out of bounds. But, to be fair, some National Trust properties offer as little. (They could all take a lesson from Blair Atholl Castle in Scotland, which offers more rooms than anywhere else I can think of, and shows what can be done by private owners and the National Trust when stately homes are properly presented).
Thought the best bit the museum. Lots of old cars and carriages, and a very moving tribute to the Estate workers of Sandringham, who enlisted in the Great War and nearly all went missing (killed) at Gallipoli. Worth seeking out the television film All the King’s Men, made about that tragedy.
The nearby church beggars belief. Its solid silver altar and pulpit monuments to bad taste, like something out of one of those awful Channel 4 programmes where the tackiness of some human lives is odiously displayed.
Sandringham is worth seeing – once!