Living in the disused waiting-rooms of a tiny country railway station might not be everybody's idea of the high life. But there's a contented couple in Norfolk who enjoy a lifestyle that's very close to "royal."
Eric and Herta Walker live in the "down-side" buildings of Wolferton Station. This was the railway station that was used by royalty when visiting or leaving Sandringham, and as such, it is a very special station indeed truly fit for a king.
Items connected with royal railway travel make an attractive display in a corridor.
Wolferton sits on the coastal edge of the Sandringham Estate, two and a half miles from the Big House as it has always been) known. Finding the station by road is no easy matter. Narrow roads, wonderfully dense forests and rhododendrons conspire to confuse the visitor.
Fortunately I spotted the tiny blue signpost, "Museum," and was soon coasting down the hill where years ago the Duke of Windsor and his friends would cycle on trips around the estate.
The first sight of this royal station is breathtaking. There are superb ornamental railings, a wide, graveled drive, lamps surmounted by royal crowns, and over the impressive main entrance is the crest of the Prince of Wales.
Since 1968 Eric and Herta Walker have made their home here. And what a unique home it is!
But how on earth did they come to be living here? I put the question to Eric in the paneled retiring-room that had been built for Queen Alexandra and her guests.
"I used to work for the LNER, based in London," he told me. “In the Sixties I was involved with the closure of various stations.
“In June 1966 I came to Wolferton to take an inventory. I was absolutely flabbergasted by the royal waiting-rooms — retiring-rooms, as they should be called."
His astonishment was hardly surprising. Under dust and dirt was hidden a most remarkable set of rooms, unique in the whole of England.
"The railway company intended to demolish the down-side station and build semi-detached houses on the land," he continued.
Fortunately for posterity, that never happened. In 1967 Wolferton Station and buildings were put up for sale by auction in King's Lynn.
Eric and his Austrian wife Herta were in at the bidding. To their great delight the auctioneer's hammer came down on their bid.
For what was then considered a decent price — £5700 — they started’ what many of their friends considered to be a mad venture.
WE had planned this as our retirement home," Herta explained. "When we came to live here in 1968 it was not a very comfortable place." She laughed at the memory. "There was no water, no electricity and no gas.
The toilets didn't work and there was no kitchen and no bathroom and everywhere there was dirt, dust, litter and rubbish. It was in a terrible state."