Dear old Sandringham

Sandringham House, which has been the monarch's country retreat since 1862. Picture: Ian Burt

Sandringham House, which has been the monarch's country retreat since 1862. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Sandringham House, where the Queen spends Christmas, has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs since 1862.

It was bought by the then Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII, as a private country retreat and the main house was rebuilt in 1870 to ensure it was big enough for his growing family.

It hosted many glittering occasions, from visits by foreign heads of state to balls for the local landed gentry, farmers and servants, and annual shoots.

The future Edward VII even created his own time zone at Sandringham - ST or Sandringham Time.

The idea was to make the most of the winter daylight hours for shooting and so the clocks all over the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk were advanced by half an hour.

King George V maintained this custom during his lifetime, but King Edward VIII abolished it on his accession in 1936.

George V, the Queen's grandfather, described the house as 'Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world', and George VI, the Queen's father, wrote to his mother 'I have always been so happy here and I love the place'.

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The Queen privately owns Sandringham House and uses it as a retreat away from London life.

Its vast surrounding estate includes 16,000 acres of farmland, 3,500 acres of woodland and 150 properties.

The Duke of Edinburgh took on overall responsibility for the management of the estate at the start of the Queen's reign in 1952.

He has concentrated on maintaining it for future generations, ensuring conservation was at the heart of the way it was run.

More than 5,000 trees and several miles of hedges are planted each year, 10 wetland areas have been created and sympathetic farming practices employed to encourage many different species of wildlife.

Philip has been spending much of his retirement at Wood Farm, a farmhouse in Wolferton nestled in the far reaches of the estate, enjoying the sanctuary and privacy it offers.

The Queen heads to Sandringham each winter, arriving before Christmas, staying until early February.

The royals attend the Church of St Mary Magdalene for the Christmas Day service, greeting well-wishers who have turned out to see them, before heading home for lunch and to watch the monarch's Christmas speech.

Sandringham is also where the Queen's father died from lung cancer in 1952 and she often spends the poignant anniversary of his death on February 6 - her Accession day - privately, staying out of the public eye.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also have a home on the Sandringham estate - their 10-bedroom country mansion Anmer Hall.

Their daughter Princess Charlotte was christened at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in 2015.

William's late mother Diana, Princess of Wales was born at Park House next to the church and spent her early childhood there.

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