The Terror of Sandringham

Thursday 4th July 2019

I went once again to Sandringham.

Were you to be walking in Norfolk and suddenly to come across Sandringham, you’d be frightened. There’s something frightening about this great long house lying low behind vast lawns. It’s hard to say why. Is it the thunder of Majesty? Or the curious double-time warp? Or the foreign feel you get also at Buckingham Palace?

I went to Sandringham last in 1988, at the end of a long hot summer. ¬†It’s been open to the public since the 1970s. I thought it perfectly ghastly, like a public library with municipal gardens and inside like an Edwardian boarding house. Terrible hard-wearing fabrics from John Lewis in the television room.

This time it was different. The whole place is frozen in the 1880s. The park is a magnificent example of its kind – faintly gloomy, conifers, Cedar of the Leb, rhodos, weeping trees and rocks around a lake. The house itself weird – every known architectural style crammed in with the bold carelessness of the era, dirty red brick and yellow ochre, one wing in another style and colour altogether. No attempt at beauty but not fun either. James Pope-Hennessey (In Quest of Queen Mary currently on loan to Royston King, so I can’t quote accurately) thought it wretched. Really it’s that great last period of Royalty when they were mostly German and all related to each other and totally Royal but also suburban and mad keen on Maples in the Tott Court Road and all the latest gadgets and having masses of everything. Inside, Sandringham is just so utterly bedroom – except for the so-called Saloon which is really the hall, where they watch TV. The Drawing Room and small Sitting Room are like being inside a meringue. Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary’s jade collections in glass cases on the walls – as if it were a shop. Just like at Van Cleef and Arpels. And the colours of the jade, a really horrible pink and even worse clashing green. But marvellous and everywhere marquetry and swirling ormolu and fragile porcelain flowers. Royston King interviewed the attendants of course who said it was a nightmare trying to shut the shutters without smashing everything to bits. I noticed in the small sitting room a row of electric plugs and a telephone socket unused on the skirting. Maybe this is the place where her desk is put when she’s in res. Just to think – that could have been the actual telephone socket into which her private telephone is plugged. And in that room she would be telephoning. Certainly in the dining room she takes her Christmas dinner. Queen Mary had it painted green to obliterate the gloom of dark wood and the extraordinary built-in sideboard with little twisty pillars which is really quite common. ‘Next time this room is done,’ I said to the attendant, ‘they should pick out the mouldings in different shades to give depth.’ Attendant looked furious.

The ballroom with  laurels pressed against the windows was just perfection of Victorian heaviness. Oh the immaculation of Sandringham, the condition, the polish, the superbness Рthey said the Royal Family play cards at a certain table but how could they with its sheen? The fabrics are not a bit John Lewis in fact.

We walked in the grounds and saw York Cottage into which Queen Mary and King George were crammed until 1925 when they could finally get into the big house on the death of Queen Alexandra. It’s actually quite enormous but the rooms must be small. Then the Church. How well we know that lychgate. Every Christmas. Just an ordinary little lychgate in a wall but here the glory of Majesty is known. The church itself tiny, the humblest parish church, but crammed with monuments to monarchs and royal princes and with a massive silver altarpiece given by some pushy multi-millionaire.

So bizarre and strange and not really making sense – this is the terror of Sandringham

Sandringham Parish Church: How Well We Know that Gate

Sandringham Parish Church: How Well We Know that Gate

Sandringham: Every Known Architectural Style

Sandringham: Every Known Architectural Style

Sandringham: the Grounds: A Certain Gloom

Sandringham: the Grounds: A Certain Gloom

York Cottage: Not Quite So Small

York Cottage: Not Quite So Small

West Newton Parish Hut: Here the Queen Attends a Meeting of the WI every January

West Newton Parish Hut: Here the Queen Attends a Meeting of the WI every January

West Newton Parish Hut: Leakage

West Newton Parish Hut: Leakage

 

Posted Thursday, July 4, 2019 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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