by Ben Johnson
Sandringham Time (ST) was the inspired idea of King Edward VII who altered the clocks on his estate at Sandringham in Norfolk to half an hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. This was the official time on the estate between 1901 and 1936.
Sandringham was bought by the then Prince of Wales in 1862 for the princely sum of £220,000. He bought it as a private retreat away from London where he could indulge his passion for hunting.
It was this passion for outdoor pursuits that led to the introduction of Sandringham Time, and not the rumoured lack of timekeeping on the part of his wife, Princess Alexandra, who was constantly late!
Prince Albert Edward married Princess Alexandra of Denmark on 10th March 1863, and they began their married life at Sandringham. They made many alterations and improvements to the estate, including having the old house demolished and rebuilt to meet the needs of their growing family.
One of the main activities at Sandringham was shooting. The Prince of Wales loved outdoor sports and came up with the idea of Sandringham Time to make the most of the winter daylight hours for shooting.
He ordered all the clocks on the estate to be set half an hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Sandringham Time was also adopted at Windsor Castle and Balmoral.
Even after his accession to the throne in 1901, Edward continued to make improvements to the house and estate. Following his death in 1910, Sandringham was left to Queen Alexandra, who continued to live there until her death in 1925.
The tradition of Sandringham Time however continued after Edward’s death and throughout the reign of George V. It was the new king’s favourite residence: “Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere in the world.”
This however led to some confusion during the final hours of George’s life (he died at Sandringham on 20th January 1936) and Edward VIII abolished ST on his accession in 1936.
Sandringham has remained a favourite retreat for the Royal Family. George V made the first ever Christmas broadcast to the Empire on 25th December 1932 from Sandringham. The Queen also made her first televised Christmas broadcast from the library at Sandringham in 1957. Traditionally, the Queen spends every Christmas with the Royal Family at Sandringham – but not on Sandringham Time!