Playing with Prince John, riding on the royal train, visiting Buckingham Palace and joining the King on a shoot, these are some of the fabulous royal reminiscences from Leslie Heath about his time at Wolferton with his grandfather Harry Saward, the Royal Station Master at Wolferton.
They have been shared here by Leslie’s son, Colin. The Royal Station Master’s Daughters is inspired by Colin’s extraordinary family, and his father appears as a character in my book as Ada’s baby son. If you have read the book you will recognise some other familiar names here too.
These are the stories passed down to Colin by his father:
“In 1914 and spent my early years there with my mother and sister at my grandparents home while my father was away in the war. During those years I used to visit a house in the village where Prince John, son of King George V was living with a nanny, and I played there with him. I can just remember going there on occasions, but have little recollection of the Prince. I would have been about four or five then.
“One of my godfathers was Richard Howlett, who was valet to King George V, and my Aunt Jessie’s husband, William Hawkins, who had been in royal service for many years as Sergeant Footman in Edward V11’s reign and later became a Kings Messenger or Silver Greyhound.
“I have ridden in the royal train and been inside Buckingham Palace with my uncle. On New Year’s Day 1929 I stood with my godfather next to the King while the royal party was shooting in Wolferton Wood. My godfather was loading the second gun for the King.”
Of Harry Saward’s three daughters, Colin tells us Jessie died aged 82 in London, Beatrice died in her 70’s near Cromer and Ada died in 1962 aged 73 in London.
Colin adds: “I came to Australia from England with my family in 1961, two months after leaving boarding school in Norwich. I first came to New Zealand in 1964 and have lived here full time since 1969. My father, Leslie Heath, died in 2003 and my mother died in 2014 both in Brisbane.
“I stayed with my aunt Barbara, Ada’s daughter, in Chiswick in the mid 1960’s for three or four months and later in 1969). I saw her sister Jessie a few of times as she lived down the end of the same street. I recall she had a lot of royal photos and “stuff” in her living room. I remember seeing Beatrice (“Trotts” as she was known) a number of times when I was quite young.
“I remember staying with Ada and Alfred (my grandparents) when I was about five years old for a few weeks,in Middlesex. I remember seeing and handling the Russian gold watch but can’t remember whether it was while we were still in the UK or after we arrived in Australia. I don’t know what happened to it. Shame as It should have stayed with the family. (The watch presented was present to Harry by the Empress Marie of Russia. whose crest, the double-headed eagle, is engraved on the front of the case). I have also seen the royal cricket book. (King George V presented Harry with the first printed copy of Imperial Cricket, edited and signed by Pelham Warner. Its cover is in vellum and gold leaf. It had a limited edition print of 100 copies).
Thank you Colin for sharing these terrific anecdotes, a reminder of what extraordinary times your family lived through and its unique royal connections. Colin is Brian’s older brother by 15 years; it was Brian who first told me the extraordinary story about Harry which I felt I had to write about.
Pic caption: The photo shows Leslie, whose second name was Saward, with his grandparents, Harry and Sarah Saward. It was taken in 1928.