Royal Sandringham by Rob Topliss

Royal Norfolk

The British Royal Family Norfolk Connection

Between Hunstanton and Kings Lynn, just off the A149, is Sandringham.  Sandringham is best known as the location of Sandringham House, the beautiful and much loved Norfolk country home of HM The Queen (first opened to the public in 1977). Sandringham has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs since 1862. Queen Elizabeth II typically marks the anniversary of the death of her father, King George VI at Sandringham, as well as Christmas and New Year. Sandringham Estate is also considered a key Norfolk shooting location.  Within Sandringham Estate lies Park House where Princess Diana was born in 1961. Park House is now a holiday retreat for the disabled and their carers.

Sandringham is, however, also a Norfolk village and civil parish. The village of Sandringham is located perhaps a few kilometres south of the village of Dersingham. The parish of Sandringham rises from Sandringham itself taking in the picturesque villages of West Newton and Wolferton. There are numerous churches of all faiths nearby.

Numerous walks may be found within the Sandringham Estate forests and grounds. Tread the forest and gardens that many Royal brides have trod over the years and soak up the tranquillity that abounds. Sandringham House, set in 60 acres of stunning gardens, is perhaps the most famous stately home in Norfolk and is at the heart of the 20,000-acre Sandringham Estate, 600 acres of which make up the woodland and heath of the Country Park, open to the public free of charge every day of the year. The Estate is a thriving mixed landscape, including the tidal mudflats of the Wash, woodland and wetland, arable, livestock and fruit farms, and commercial and residential properties; it is managed to a high standard and sustainably with the aims always of being financially self- sufficient and of providing a place of enjoyment not only for The Royal Family but also for the many thousands of visitors who come to see the House, Museum and Gardens or just to enjoy the Country Park.

Indian Princess Pocahontas and the American Connection

Most of the inhabitants of America’s first permanent English settlement came from right here in Norfolk, England.   2007 marked the 400th anniversary of Jamestown2007, Virginia and a longstanding link between our two parts of the world. Many parts of the UK celebrated this anniversary of Jamestown under the concept of the “Pocahontas trail”. 

Heacham, Norfolk was one of the places on this historical trail since the Indian Princess, Pocahontas, married one of Heacham’s sons, John Rolfe. Heacham local legend has it that Pocahontas, worshiped at the Church of St Mary’s.  The primary local church in Heacham. 

John Rolfe returned with his extraordinary wife and young son, Thomas to England from Virginia, USA.  Although the British Court took Pocahontas to their hearts, they planned to return to Virginia. Sadly, Pocahontas became ill and died in Gravesend, Kent  at the age of 22.  Rolfe then returned to his land in Virginia leaving their son Thomas in England for his formative years.

Coats of arms of prominent members of the Rolfe family are located inside St Mary's Church, Heacham. A sculpture of Pocahontas in Jacobean dress by Otillea Wallace, a pupil of Rodin hangs on the wall above a plaque dedicated to John Rolfe’s father.  Pocahontas also features on the Heacham village sign.

Today St Mary’s Church remains at the centre of the village and its 2009 Flower Festival achieved high acclaim when it focussed on using only recycled items to make flower arrangements.  The end results were truly stunning.  The Church hopes to repeat the concept in the future.  If you are visiting Heacham when the Festival is on you should not miss it

A great many people left Norfolk for the New World. One of those who made this journey was Samuel Lincoln of Hingham, a forefather of President Abraham Lincoln. Hingham church contains a bronze bust of the 16th President, commemorating his family’s roots here. Another local notable was Founding Father Thomas Paine, author of the “The Rights of Man”. He was born in Thetford and also lived for a time in Diss, where he worked as a maker of stays (ropes and cables). He later emigrated to the New World in 1774. It was common for settlers from Norfolk to take the names of their towns, villages and county with them (for example, to found Hingham, Massachusetts). There are many places throughout the USA that are named after Norwich and Norfolk: Norfolk City, Virginia; Norwich, Pennsylvania and Norwich City, Connecticut, to name just a few.


Norfolk County Sign Sandringham House - View from Across the Lake by Rob ToplissSandringham Church by Rob ToplissSandringham Gates by Rob Topliss Church of St Mary the Virgin, Heacham by Stella Gooch

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