CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EDP Norfolk today CLICK HERE

9 festive facts from Sandringham and the gingerbread villages

PUBLISHED: 13:33 03 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:33 03 December 2018

The Queen on Christmas Day 2013 (photo: Matthew Usher)

The Queen on Christmas Day 2013 (photo: Matthew Usher)


We have gathered nine fabulous facts and quirks about royal Sandringham at Christmas time

1. The Royal Family always chooses a Norfolk Christmas. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh host princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, earls and countesses, at splendid Sandringham House.

Here’s a glimpse of their festive schedule.

Christmas Eve is Christmas Day for the Royals. They open their pressies on Christmas Eve, and as people who have pretty much everything, the tradition is to go for token or jokey gifts. There are stockings stuffed with small gifts and fruit for house guests on Christmas morning – and then a festive breakfast before the 11am church service at St Mary Magdalene church. Hundreds of well-wishers line the route as the family arrives – some on foot after a bracing walk across Sandringham Park and some by car. There is another chance to see the royals after the service when they take a bit of time to chat to people in the crowds before heading back to Sandringham House for Christmas lunch at 1pm.

The Pink Footed Geese fly over Snettisham RSPB reserve at as the sun rises (photo: Matt Usher)The Pink Footed Geese fly over Snettisham RSPB reserve at as the sun rises (photo: Matt Usher)

2. The royals sit down in front of the telly to watch the Queen’s Speech – just like everyone else. The first Christmas speech was broadcast by radio from Sandringham by the Queen’s grandfather, George V, on December 25, 1932. Twenty five years later the Queen made the first televised Christmas broadcast, live from the library at Sandringham. It was King George V who said: “Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere in the world.” His son, George VI, said: “I have always been happy here and I love the place.” The deeply loved home has seen sad times too as both kings also died at Sandringham.

Geoff and Teena Stabler at Sandringham House (photo: Ian Burt)Geoff and Teena Stabler at Sandringham House (photo: Ian Burt)

3. The Queen traditionally arrives in Norfolk by train. These days the nearest station is King’s Lynn but for around a century Sandringham’s royal railway station was at Wolferton. The village station, now a private home, had elegant waiting rooms for its aristocratic travellers. Even the lamps were topped with royal crowns for the emperors, empresses, kings and tsars who arrived here. The buildings have been beautifully restored to something reminiscent of their royal heyday.

One story is of a short journey Edward VII took with the Tsar of Russia. Catching a train home after a walk they were asked for their tickets. “I am the King of England and this is the Tsar of Russia,” said Edward. The ticket collector replied: “Glad to meet you. I am the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

To mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Royal Loft Manager Peter Farrow releases a pigeon outside the Norwich Gates at Sandringham (photo: Ian Burt)To mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Royal Loft Manager Peter Farrow releases a pigeon outside the Norwich Gates at Sandringham (photo: Ian Burt)

4. The Queen is a pigeon fancier, with her own loft of racing pigeons at Wolferton. The hobby has passed down from monarch to monarch and Her Majesty is a knowledgeable owner who visits regularly.

The Queen has also been a member of Sandringham Women’s Institute for 75 years. She attends the January meeting, at West Newton village hall, where she chats with members, enjoys tea and gingerbread and listens to the visiting speaker.

This year the speaker was our own Susie Fowler-Watt.

The River Babingley (photo: Ian Burt)The River Babingley (photo: Ian Burt)

5. The rich seam of red stone which runs through the region is officially called carrstone. Nicknamed gingerbread, it gives a fairytale feel to villages full of gingerbread cottages. Find them in Ingoldisthorpe, whose name gives away its Viking past, Flitcham, where St Felix visited in the seventh century, and Dersingham, with its historic tithe barn and bog which is a national nature reserve.

The Sedgeford Historical Archaelogical Research Project (SHARP) is back for another season (photo: Ian Burt)The Sedgeford Historical Archaelogical Research Project (SHARP) is back for another season (photo: Ian Burt)

6. Birds fly in from as far afield as the Arctic in the winter and Africa in summer. The coastal nature reserve at Snettisham, run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is alive with flocks of resident and migratory birds all year round.

Deep in the heart of lowland Iceland pink-footed geese flourish in summer. But as temperatures drop, the geese head south, with many thousands gathering at Snettisham. They roost overnight on the mudflats and are ready to fly out to find food at first light.

The sight of the sky full of soaring pink-footed geese has been dubbed the Snettisham Spectacular by the RSPB, which runs its dawn Wild Goose Chase on December 14, 15 and 30 and January 5.

Booking is essential on 01485 210779.

7. West Norfolk has been associated with royalty for more than 2,000 years. Scores of Iron Age gold torqs have been unearthed around Snettisham – of such high quality they are thought of have been the royal treasure of the Iceni tribe.

The Snettisham Hoard, including huge twisted gold necklaces, or torqs, was found between 1948 and 1973. See some of the finds in Norwich Castle Museum, with more in the British Museum. A separate hoard of Roman jewellery has also been found nearby.

8. Sedgeford has the most studied history in Britain. The Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project has been running for 22 years, and uncovered more than 4,000 years of human history from the burial of a Bronze Age 20-year-old around 2300BC through a Roman villa (there are also the remains of Roman villas in nearby Grimston, Gayton, Congham and Flitcham) and medieval manors to a First World War aerodrome.

Every summer the historians return to one of the largest and longest-running archaeological research and training projects in Britain.

9. St Felix is said to have been rescued by beavers after being shipwrecked on the (tiny) River Babingley in 630AD. He had come, via The Wash, to introduce Christianity to East Anglia when he was caught in a violent storm. He was so grateful to the colony of beavers which saved him from drowning that he made the chief beaver a bishop. Today the village sign for the hamlet of Babingley, near beautiful Castle Rising, shows a beaver in a bishop’s mitre.

And finally… Fancy a real royal Christmas tree? Christmas trees are sold from the sawmill on the Sandringham estate.

More from Out & About

We have gathered nine fabulous facts and quirks about royal Sandringham at Christmas time

Read more
Friday, November 30, 2018

Our winter walk planner is sure to inspire you to strap on your old boots and head out into the crisp air for a ramble around the hills, coast, woods, farmland and parks of Norfolk

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cobbled roads, rural pathways and coastal walks, Norfolk has a plethora of streets that are a pleasure to explore. Here we have collected just eight of the pretty streets in Nelson’s County

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

An autumn walk with Peter James of Norfolk Ramblers

Read more
November 2018
Friday, November 16, 2018

Most people know that Hunstanton is the east of England resort with a west-facing beach, but there are a whole host more fascinating facts that light up this east-west-both-best seaside town

Read more
November 2018
Sunday, October 28, 2018

For a county that’s so steeped in history, it’s not surprising that Norfolk has its fair share of ghost sightings and paranormal activity. We have gathered an unlucky 13 legendary haunted places to visit if you dare!

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Stockton villagers in Norfolk gain a grant of £1,000 to help fund new bus shelters on the A146 Norwich Road, as part of Calor’s annual funding scheme

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Scole Nature Trail Trust is celebrating a grant of £1,000 to help fund new facilities as part of the rural energy provider’s annual funding scheme

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

We all know how to pronounce it properly. (Think win and you’re a winner, think why and you’re not.) But did you know all these winning facts about Wymondham?

Read more
October 2018
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Norfolk Ramblers guide us on a beautiful autumnal walk around Blickling Hall, near Aylsham

Read more
October 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search