Sandringham House: The Norfolk home where the Queen loved to spend Christmas
Sandringham House was one of Queen Elizabeth II's most beloved royal residences
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Sandringham House in Norfolk is where Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II loved to spend Christmas every year.
- Sandringham House is one of two personal and private residences owned by The Royal Family, unlike the Royal palaces that belong to the Crown—such as Buckingham Palace.
- Sandringham is a place that holds a host of memories and traditions for The Firm
- It's where the Queen spent the Christmas period for almost every year of her reign, usually staying there until mid-February every year.
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, many of her iconic residences have been a key focus of attention for royal fans around the world.
From Buckingham Palace, where the Queen's coffin departed to make the journey to Westminster Hall to Lie-in-State, to Balmoral Castle, where Her Majesty spent her final days, the homes of the late monarch have been extremely significant in recent days.
But what did Sandringham House mean to the Queen and how did it become such a pivotal part of her life during her reign?
Where is Sandringham House?
Located in Norfolk, Sandringham House stands within a 20,000 acres estate in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty—so it’s no surprise Her Majesty enjoyed spending time there so much.
It's located in the village of Sandringham, within the town of King's Lynn—just a three-hour drive from London.
The Queen would travel by train from London King's Cross station to King's Lynn on the Great Northern Service in December to begin her Christmas break at the Sandringham Estate, a long-held tradition in the monarch's life, which was interrupted when the Covid-19 pandemic meant Christmas at Sandringham was cancelled in 2020 and 2021.
Here she would host Christmas Day for key members of her family, with the royals attending Church at the nearby St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham.
When did Queen Elizabeth II inherit Sandringham House?
Queen Elizabeth II inherited Sandringham House from her father King George VI in 1952, following his death on February 6 of that year.
Sandringham House has been the private home to four generations of sovereigns since 1862, when it was purchased for King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, as a country home for himself and his soon-to-be wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Edward VII also developed the estate, creating one of the finest shoots in England.
Following King Edward VII's death in 1910, the estate passed to his second son and heir, King George V, who described the house as 'dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world'. It was the setting for the first-ever Christmas broadcast in 1932. George V died at the house on January 20, 1936.
The estate passed to his son King Edward VIII and at the abdication, as the private property of the monarch, was purchased by Edward VIII’s brother, King George VI.
How much is Sandringham House worth?
Sandringham House is estimated to be worth £48.5 million.
When the Queen inherited the property in 1952, the Duke of Edinburgh took overall responsibility for its management.
One of Prince Philip's principles was to maintain the estate for future generations, so conservation has always been an important part of the estate's management practices.
The estate is also home to York Cottage and Anmer Hall. York Cottage was built by Edward VII soon after he moved in.
Anmer Hall is a Georgian house on the grounds. At one point it was the country home of the Duke of Kent, but it is now the country home of Prince William the Prince of Wales, Catherine the Princess of Wales and their three children - Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
When did the Queen stay at Sandringham and who else lives there?
The Queen loved spending Christmas at Sandringham and was annually joined by many members of the Royal Family.
The royals traditionally visit The Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham Estate for a traditional service on Christmas Day.
Sadly, 2020 was the first time in 32 years that Queen Elizabeth II and her family weren't at Sandringham for Christmas. The monarch and Prince Philip announced that they would instead be spending the festive season 'quietly' alone at Windsor Castle, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The royal family relishes in their annual stays at Sandringham, throwing gatherings and parties for their nearest and dearest there—taking advantage of the vast countryside around them and the spacious home.
Sandringham is forever linked with the festive season as back in 1957, the Queen made her first televised Christmas broadcast from the house.
After his retirement in 2017, Prince Philip spent much of his time on the Sandringham Estate, living in the Wood Farm Cottage within the grounds. But it's thought he stayed in the main house with the Queen when she was there.
No other members of the royal family live at Sandringham House full time, but many of them do stay there temporarily over the Christmas period.
What is Wood Farm?
Wood Farm is a red-brick cottage nestled on the western side of Sandringham Estate at Wolferton—and if you're wondering why you haven't heard of it, there's a good reason.
It has long been used by the Royal Family as an escape from their collection of formal residences, as well as a much-needed hideout from the prying eyes of the British media.
Situated two miles away from Sandringham's main house, it is completely off-limits to the public—meaning there are virtually no photos available.
It's understood that Prince Philip first suggested utilizing the building, which dates back to the early twentieth century, as a cost-effective alternative to staying at the 'big house' in 1967.
With just five bedrooms, Wood Farm was easier to navigate and manage than the nearby mansion, making it ideal for short trips and hosting guests at Sandringham. It quickly became a favorite with the royals and has since been used for a variety of purposes—including King Charles' and Prince William's shooting parties.
Kate Middleton also stayed at the cottage multiple times before she married the Prince of Wales, while Sarah Ferguson was reportedly asked to sleep there at Christmas after her divorce from Prince Andrew in 1992.
Most recently, the house was occupied by Prince Philip, who died aged 99 in April 2021.
The Duke of Edinburgh retreated to Wood Farm after retiring from public life in 2017, to embark on a quiet lifestyle of painting watercolors and reading biographies. He also enjoyed visits from the Queen, who stayed at Windsor Castle, as well as his long-term friend, Penny Brabourne.
It's been said that the atmosphere is surprisingly relaxed at Wood Farm, with servants forgoing their uniforms and Her Majesty even dabbling in household chores. Neither Prince Philip nor the Queen stood on ceremony whilst at the house, which means they didn't require staff to curtsey or bow in their presence. The couple also had few qualms with communal living, reportedly even sharing the cottage's kitchen with the cooks and maids.
"I used to love it there. It's so small you get to interact with them every day, rattle pans, and play with the corgis!" former royal chef Darren McGrady revealed on Twitter in 2020. "And when The Queen looks into the kitchen after a busy week and says 'Thank you' you can't get a bigger compliment than that."
What are the Sandringham House grounds like?
The house is set within 24 hectares of land, providing ample outside space for the royals to enjoy.
Each monarch to have lived at the house has put their own stamp on the grounds, adding to the wide range of shrubbery, flowers, lawns and trees.
There are also a multitude of lakes within the gardens, which are all fed by natural springs. Many parts of the gardens are cornered off by intricate walls and gates too, adding a special touch to the royal abode.
But not many people know that technically, the Sandringham Estate itself spans across a huge 13 villages in Norfolk. On the estate, there are over 300 residential and commercial properties, many of which are rented out and lived in by normal people.
Can members of the public visit Sandringham House?
In 1977, the year of her Silver Jubilee, the Queen opened the house and gardens to the public for the first time. The house, the landscaped gardens, park and woodlands are listed Grade II* on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
However, only certain parts of the grounds and house are open to the public - including its museum, lavish gardens and visitor centre, and only at certain times of the year.
All royal residences are currently closed to the public in light of the Queen's death and will only open again following the period of national mourning.
Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on womanandhome.com.
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