By M R Windle
Owner of rail museum Mr Eric Walker and wife Herta
THE gross distortion made by Sandringham Parish Council regarding the Wolferton Station Museum requires some comment. To suggest, as it does, that the Museum is a serious traffic hazard and that visitors destroy the peace and tranquility of Wolferton Village would be fatuous, were it not for the serious consequences to its present owners. One wonders if members of the parish council have bothered even to visit the Museum during the tourist season and seen for themselves how this small enterprise is run. During August, this year, I spent two days sketching in the village. Occasionally a private car passed through the village, presumably with sightseers ‘doing1 the Royal Estate. More rarely a car turned off into the station yard. The noisiest and most intrusive were tractors and other farm vehicles from the farms of the Royal Estate.
One is surely entitled to ask why Sandringham Parish Council has not raised objections regarding the visitors to Sandringham House, Gardens, and Church? Daily during the tourist season thousands of visitors have to cross a busy road from the Sandringham House car park, and even more from the dozens of tourist coaches. Add to this those hundreds of people who stop for tea, ice cream, and souvenirs from the estate shop and cafe, and yet there has not been one objection from Sandringham Parish Council. Do not these constitute a genuine traffic hazard, and is not the peace and tranquility of the area destroyed? I am surprised, that in view of its own workings that the Royal Estate should give support to such specious objections, especially when a few years ago a reported 16,000 caravans and 50,000 people camped there for a Bank Holiday Weekend, with convoys of cars and caravans clogging up surround roads for miles.
During 1979 I twice visited Sandringham House, Gardens, and Museums, Each time it was necessary to wait in long queues to get into the buildings. By contrast I have visited the Wolferton Station Museum on several occasions at different times of the season. At no time has there been more than five or six cars in the car-park. At no time have I had to queue to get in. At no time has there been more than a dozen or so visitors with me. The museum is quietly and graciously run by its proprietors, who rightly feel that Royal Rail-Travel and the beautiful ex-Royal Station is a unique part of British Social History and wish to share it with those so interested.
By its very nature the Wolferton Museum collection does not attract the crowds that live-steam exhibits attract. On Sunday, December 28th, viewers watching the BBC ‘Royal Heritage1 series, saw Her Majesty the Queen enjoying showing some of her collection to her private visitors at Windsor Castle, imagine that private visitors to Sandringham House are similarly entertained, presumably without objections from the Parish Council. Are not Mr and Mrs Eric Walker free to do the same without objection from the Parish Council, parishioners, and the Royal Estate?
During the same ‘Royal Heritage’ TV film the Duke of Edinburgh told of his wish to maintain the Royal Estates for future generations so that they might “Get the same satisfaction from a well managed and viable enterprise”. I have no doubt that had the Royal Estate had the foresight to retain the use of the Royal Waiting Rooms at Wolferton Station, they would have been turned into tourist attractions, and that visitors to Sandringham House & Gardens would have been encouraged to visit the Royal Station buildings, filled, no doubt, with similar exhibits to those found in the present station museum.
I venture to suggest that had this museum been opened by the Royal Estate that there would not have been a squeak of an objection, either from Sandringham Council or from Wolferton residents. That Sandringham Estate, and by definition, Her Majesty, should be associated with Sandringham Parish Council’s petty and distorted objections is disgraceful and does nothing for the image of Monarchy. Not content with cornering a large proportion of tourists to the area, with all their attendant traffic hazards, and the disturbance of the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood, the Estate is seeking to deny a small, but unique venture, the right to flourish. That such a Royal Goliath should be seen to oppose such a small David, seems to me to be in danger of bringing both the Queen and the Royal Estate into some disrepute with all fair minded people.
(The Rev) IVAN LILLEY, The Rectory, Watlington.
The article was published on Friday 2nd January 1981