A child’s paradise

PUBLISHED: 08:57 31 July 2013 | UPDATED: 08:58 31 July 2013

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London, with their newborn son. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London, with their newborn son. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Yui Mok/Press Association

For almost two centuries, the Sandringham Estate has been the Royal’s country retreat and over those years it has been a place of great fun and freedom for the youngest members of the family.

Pictures dating back to the turn of the 20th century taken by famous west Norfolk royal photographer Percy Goodchild show Edward VII posing with his family and George VI pictured with his children, the Queen and the late Princess Margaret, enjoying their time in Norfolk.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Queen’s four children would be seen excitedly arriving at Sandringham for their holidays by train, and for generations since it has remained an idyllic place to get away from it all and soak up rural life in relative peace and quiet. With acres of countryside, parkland and woods to explore, it isn’t hard to see why it remains such a special place for the princes and princesses growing up.

Prince William, along with his brother Prince Harry, was a regular young visitor to Sandringham and spent many happy Christmas holidays enjoying the great outdoors on the estate.

The boys, along with their mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, could often be seen enjoying life in the county, from official events meeting the gathered crowds to fun family time away from the rigours of royal duty.

On one occasion they were photographed enjoying a trip to the pantomime in Hunstanton and on another, the boys were seen engaging in high jinks on an old fire engine and trying on the traditional helmets, with their cousins Zara and Peter Phillips.

Norfolk will always have a special place in Prince William’s heart and with reports that Amner Hall on the Sandringham Estate is to become a country retreat for his young family, those links look set to be strengthened further.

His late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was born just a few miles from Amner Hall at Park House, also in the grounds of the royal estate. She attended Riddlesworth Hall preparatory school at Diss and along with her two elder sisters Sarah and Jane and younger brother Charles, enjoyed an idyllic childhood in the county.

The 10-bedroomed home close to the church which the Royal Family traditionally visit at Christmas was a hub of traditional country life, with cats and dogs aplenty.

Diana was a keen rider and according to her nanny, she spent most of her time outdoors exploring the countryside around her, climbing trees, making dens and going on long walks with the family’s dogs. She adored her beloved guinea pigs which she would always show every summer in the local flower show’s “fur and feathers” tent, and with her siblings, she loved their days out at Brancaster beach, swimming and collecting shells.

Close to Park House is the beautiful Grade II listed Amner Hall, and it is this stunning Georgian house with beautiful gardens which the Queen has reportedly given to her grandson and wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, as a rural retreat.

The Duke and Duchess have visited the county together on several occasions – Kate was seen recently shopping in Fakenham and Holt – and Amner Hall could be the perfect place to escape to as they start life as a new family, enabling the eventual heir to the throne to enjoy a Norfolk childhood as those generations who have gone before.

Capturing the Royal family as they relax at their country estate from the early 1900s through to the 1950s, the work of King’s Lynn photographer Percy Goodchild gives a wonderful glimpse into life at the Sandringham Estate.

Many of the images remained unseen for decades until six years ago when Percy’s son Dick donated the fascinating collection of prints and negatives to Trues Yard Museum in King’s Lynn.

It was while working as the town’s photographer that Percy, who died in 1962, would regularly get the call from Sandringham to come along and record special occasions, often involving the young royals. His images include George VI out shooting just months before he died, the Queen Mother with her two young daughters, Edward VII with his family and George V and Queen Mary, in particular her tea services, and the dogs and hounds.

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