Left: The west tower, with "pretty pieced tracery panels .. and a three-light W window with panel tracery" (Pevsner and Wilson 626). Right: The three-light east window by S. S. Teulon.

St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham, Norfolk, built of dark shell carstone with ashlar dressings, and with a tiled roof (see listing text), is a Grade II* listed parish church at the edge of the royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk. Seen from the west end in the photograph on the left above, it dates back to at least the early fourteenth century, although is thought to have been entirely rebuilt in the sixteenth. It was later "successfully Victorianized" first by S. S. Teulon in 1857-58, and then by Sir Arthur Blomfield in 1890 (Pevsner and Wilson 626). On the second occasion, when Blomfield added the south transept and the aisles, most of the earlier Victorian work was lost — apart from the east window (shown above right), and, within, the chancel arch and choir stalls. The church clock was given as a memorial to the then Prince of Wales's close friend Christopher Sykes, MP, who died in 1898 (Ashton 2).

Entering the church. Left to right: (a) The lych gate. (b) Side view showing the priest's entrance with its crenellated parapet, and then the south transept of 1890, with the front edge south porch just visible beyond, and the west tower behind. This shows the effectiveness of the stepped and angled buttresses with their contrasting white stone dressings. (c) The priest's door at the east end, with late nineteenth-century ironwork.

The special interest of this parish church lies in the fact that when the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) acquired Sandringham House in 1861, it became the house of worship for the royal household, and the current monarch when in residence — now most famously at Christmas. It has often been the scene of royal christenings (including Princess Diana's). The lych gate was bought by Queen Victoria as a gift for the Prince of Wales (see Ashton 24), and the priest's door shown on the right above, close to the gate near the east end, serves as the royal party's private entrance on such occasions.

Above the south porch (main) entrance, further to the west, is a worn but endearing figure in a niche — a guardian angel cradling a babe-in-arms.

Naturally, in view of this connection, the interior is richly decorated, and has many fine memorials. It was a privilege for Sir Arthur Blomfield to be commissioned to enlarge the church and contribute to its interior.

Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Related Material


Ashton, Canon Patrick. The Church of St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham. Peterborough: Jarrold, 2008.

"Church of St Mary Magdelene." British Listed Buildings. Web. 9 October 2018.

Pevsner, Nikolaus, and Bill Wilson. Norfolk 2: North-West and South (The Buildings of England). New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.

Created 7 November 2016