Sandringham with not a Queen in sight !

Saturday 1496 – 26th November 2011

I headed off to Norfolk today with a friend of mine – to a craft fair at Sandringham, the country retreat of the Queen. We didn’t see her! In fact we didn’t see the house either as the fair was held in a field on the Sandringham estate but some way from the house itself,  with stands either outside …brrrr… or inside several large marquees …much warmer 🙂

We chatted in the car on the way there and I mentioned that although I loved visiting large country houses this was always tainted for me by the thought that these huge houses were probably built, maintained and serviced daily with the labour of people who worked very long hours indeed for very little pay.

My friend had a different take on it as her father had been a head gardener for 35 years in a large country house and she spoke of the paternalistic society where the owner of the “big house” took care of the people who worked for him seeming to have a genuine interest in their welfare. She described how her father had loved working there.

Whichever of these views is correct and I suspect both are, there can be little doubt that the owners of such houses in the 19th and into the 20th Century had almost total control over the staff who worked for them as this was a class ridden, hierarchical society characterised by each person knowing their place and a common sense of duty.

Enough of that on to the Christmas fair – it still doesn’t feel quite right to me having Christmas fairs in November. My friend mentioned that she was at an event in October and there were Christmas carols being played. In OCTOBER  even before Halloween!  I’m a bit old-fashioned about this one as I believe Christmassy goods and decorations should be kept out of the shops until the 1st week in December. This would keep it a bit more special ( and hopefully less commercialised)

I can remember the thrill I experienced as a child when our local furniture store revealed their Christmas window at the very beginning of December. The window always had moving electronic scenes like a train through the mountains or santa’s sleigh complete with galloping  reindeer ( well maybe galloping is stretching the point a bit! ) or people wrapped up in scarves skating on ice..  Whatever the scene was it always felt magical to me and the town’s Christmas lights were switched on at the same time.

As for the crafts at Sandringham? Well there was an awful lot of what could only be described as tat, some stuff that had very obviously been mass-produced and still more that was nothing to do with crafts at all but in between all that, were a few stalls that were selling lovely genuine hand crafted stuff and below are just a few  items ( as well as a couple of faces! ) that caught my photographers eye.

Which of the last 2 wins the moustache competition ?! 

 There were 2 stalls that stood out above the rest for me..

The 1st was called  “Mad about Nature”  – hand-made soaps and skin care products beautifully packaged and the stallholder very engaging. Both of these are terribly important when you are selling your creations directly to the public. This stall was dear to my heart as I used to make and sell handmade soaps at craft fairs some 10 years or so ago ( I searched my computer for photos but they must have been pre-digital! )

the 2nd was  Julia Hulmes sculpture. Her work is gorgeous. Animals created in Cold Cast bronze or clay each with its own character.

So what did I buy at the fair ?

These little bronze resin mice from Julia..

I’m not an ornamenty sort of person but I found the faces on these ( and I think faces are what sets Julia apart from others) to be entirely irresistible. Though I covet one of her large hares…Ah… maybe someday 🙂



Saturday girl signing off  ’til Saturday 1495. Maybe something more serious? who knows … have a good week all.

PS – ordered my new camera this week but it hasn’t arrived yet 😦

PPS – The names Mad About Nature and Julia Holmes are links to their respective websites..


13 comments on “Sandringham with not a Queen in sight !

  1. […] have visited a beautiful woodland burial site, a 40′s re-enactment, a craft fair, theatres, listened and watched Gamelan (what’s that I can hear you ask!)  and taken you […]

  2. mikulpepper says:

    Man, that soap looks delicious! So does the wooden fruit, for that matter.

  3. Tessa says:

    Was there as well – so it shows how large it was that our paths didn’t cross. Must agree with your view of the crafts – I was largely disappointed – I had expected something a bit more classy – I shall now buy my Christmas gifts at the Durham Fair this weekend – better crafts and great foodstuffs as well

  4. Tilly Bud says:

    I mostly agree with your friend re staff in big houses, but there will have been some abuses. Like anywhere, I suppose.

    Interesting post 🙂

  5. mary haren says:

    I loved that Saturday story Helen. I remember the years you sold the lovely soaps and cross stitch at the christmas fair in the town hall in Cavan. One year you had a stall beside Monica. She was selling wooden cats and we had a great day together. My niece, Blaithin, is busy now painting beautiful designs on glass to sell at out local craft fair next week so i hope to help at that.
    I hope you got the camera.

    • hellenjc says:

      Ah yes Mary I do remember that…we did indeed have fun but it was also such hard work .. I remember that I was busy for months ( in between working for a living!) cooking up the soap ready for the Christmas fairs, leaving it to cure and then wrapping and packaging.. did pay for the central heating to be put in one year though..
      ps..Camera still not here Mary…hopefully tomorrow

  6. Thank you for the lovely write up and the photos are great!! I am pleased you had a good day and could spot the hand made stalls inbetween the brought in!! 🙂 Thank you again and have a lovely Christmas – hopefully will see you next year?? Keilly xxxx

    • hellenjc says:

      You’re very welcome Keilly I always speak as I find and I wouldn’t have written about your stall if I hadn’t thought it was lovely. Keep up the good work 😉

  7. mimo khair says:

    I love those Christmas windows you describe, something so nostalgic about them and the soap looks so attractive!

  8. Lisa says:

    Sounds like a lovely day, I did’t know you used to make soap! The little mice are adorable I think you made a good choice , I think the wooden fruit looks sort of edible 😀

    • hellenjc says:

      I have done many things in my time Lisa 😉 I would have dearly loved one of the big hares or one of the pigs but alas funds do not permit such extravagance at present! The sculptures are heavy and really good quality. There were also some wooden apples that were painted in greens and reds. They were very edible looking… I didn’t include a photo because everyone would have thought I was just photographing fruit!

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