Sandringham House—a closer look at the Queen’s stunning Norfolk home

Sandringham House is where the monarch usually spends the festive period and where Prince Philip spent much of his time post-retirement

Aerial view of Queen Elizabeth II's Country residence, Sandringham Hall on October 3, 2006 in Sandringham, England. This Jacobean Country house is surrounded by 20,000 acres of Norfolk parkland.
(Image credit: David Goddard / Contributor/Getty Images)

The Queen is known to love routine and tradition and for the head of the British Royal Family, there's one place she loves to escape to. She may spend the majority of her time living at Buckingham Palace, but it’s no secret that her majesty likes to spend her winters at Sandringham House.

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 enjoys being there.

It's located in the village of Sandringham, within the town of King's Lynn—just a three-hour drive from London.

The stunning house played host to the now-famous 'crisis talks' between the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they will 'step back' as senior members of the Royal Family.

Sandringham House—when did the Queen inherit the royal home?

Queen

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The Queen inherited Sandringham 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

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 His Royal Highness's principles has been 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 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

When does the Queen stay at Sandringham House? And who else lives there?

Her Majesty normally resides at Sandringham House from Christmas until February every year. 

The Queen enjoys spending December 25 there and is annually joined by many members of The Royal Family, who traditionally visit The Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham Estate at Christmas time.

Sadly, 2020 was the first time in 32 years that the monarch 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. 

After an 'annus horribilis' in 2021 which included losing her dear husband, The Queen was determined to host a ‘most memorable’ Christmas at Sandringham. So when it was revealed that the Queen will celebrate Christmas at Sandringham this year, with her family— after her annual festive party at Windsor Castle, many were delighted for HRH.

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.

Sandringham

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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.

Wood Farm entrance

Wood Farm's entrance 

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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 Prince Charles' and Prince William's shooting parties. 

Kate Middleton also stayed at the cottage multiple times before she married the Duke of Cambridge, 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 Queen and her guests 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.

Sandringham

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

The Visitor Centre Restaurant offers a two-course lunch with tickets to visit the house, museum and gardens. Sandringham House also hosts a large garden show each July ensuring that this royal residence is well worth a visit, even if it’s just to see where Her Majesty pulls her crackers every year.

In fact, you can even stay within the Sandringham Estate now. If you're visiting, you can book a room at the Park House hotel (opens in new tab), within the estate, or you can camp or caravan on the site.

Emma is a Lifestyle News Writer for woman&home. Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, she mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

 

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.