Harry Saward, Royal Station Master Extraordinaire

There can be no other station master in the country who can equal the honours bestowed on Harry Saward, Royal Station Master extraordinaire.

For forty years Harry ran Wolferton Royal Station where European royal families and leading political figures of the day stopped off on their way to Sandringham House. He earned the respect of everyone he met, always maintaining the highest professional standards with a sense of humour.

Harry was held in such high esteem by our royals that when he retired in 1924, he was offered the old Church Farmhouse by King George V and it was considerably altered and improved and placed at his disposal rent free. The King and other members of the royal family visited him when he was sick during the last year of his life. Harry died on October, 1932, aged seventy-three.

His obituary in The Eastern Daily Press paid a glowing tribute, referring to the array of medals and precious gifts presented to him by royalty. It reads as follows:

Harry’s Distinguished Royal Honours

“During the four decades that Mr. Saward was stationed at Wolferton it was his constant duty to receive members of the Royal family when they came down to Sandringham. and also their many distinguished visitors. By all he was held in high esteem and many regarded him as a personal friend.

“He has received the reigning Sovereign and also most of the monarchs who ruled in Continental countries, together with numerous princes and princesses. To many of them he was introduced, including the ex-Kaiser, Don Carlos of Portugal, and the King of Spain, to whom he was presented by King Edward VII. Numerous marks of appreciation were bestowed upon him. Among his medals he had the Royal Victorian Order, given him by King Edward; King Edward Vll’s and King George V’s Coronation medals, a Danish gold medal presented to him by King Christian of Denmark, the King of Norway’s gold medal and a medal given to him by the King of Portugal just before his assassination.

“The Order of Isabelle the Catholic of Spain was presented to Mr Saward by Alfonso, who was then King of Spain, and among other of his treasured possession, was a gold watch presented to him by the Empress Marie of Russia. whose crest, the double-headed eagle, is engraved on the front of the case. Queen Alexandra gave him no fewer than five tie pins, one of which was as a memorial and upon the death of King Edward. The Empress Maria presented him with two tie pins, (at least one if not both, were made by Fabergé), and one from King George was in the form of a gold anchor.

“Mr. Saward also met many eminent statesmen whom Royal invitations or duty brought to Sandringham. He has known almost every Prime Minister since Mr Gladstone, who was the first Premier to visit Sandringham after Mr. Saward was appointed to the Royal station.”

Harry’s retirement announcement in the Great Eastern magazine refers to Harry’s “kind disposition which had won the esteem of all who worked under him.” He was presented with an inscribed mahogany ink stand as a parting gift by station staff.

After Harry died his wife Sarah went to stay with their daughter, Jessie, in Chiswick, London. Sarah died there around 1942 and the railway company carried her body free of charge to Wolferton where it lies next to her husband in St Peter’s churchyard.

Harry’s Early Life

Harry clearly left his mark on everyone he met. His capabilities were clearly recognised as he fought off stiff competition to secure the coveted position of royal station master in 1884, beating 120 applicants to secure the post at the age of twenty-five. With it was to come the beautiful Station Master’s House, built opposite the station.

Harry’s life on the railways spanned fifty-two years in all. He was born in 1859, the third of ten children of William and Mary Saward, with engine oil in his blood. His father was station master at Audley End in Essex for many years and it was there that Harry started working as a probationary telegraph clerk aged thirteen, and later as a probationary telegraph clerk, goods clerk and booking clerk. He became booking clerk at Huntington in 1877, and held similar positions in Whittlesey, Downham Market and March, where he was appointed railway clerk. Whilst in March he worked as district relieving clerk and in 1884 he became station master at Fordham. He was there only there only four months before taking up his new position at Wolferton.

He did not move there alone. In June 1884 he married farmer’s daughter Sarah Hughes from Whittlesey. She worked as waiting room attendant at Wolferton for over forty years and as postmistress at Wolferton, according to the 1901 census. Harry and Sarah had three daughters, Jessie, Beatrice and Ada, whose stories in The Royal Station Master’s Daughters series are inspired by, told as fiction.

Harry was tall and had a dignified and authoritative bearing, as the photo shows. He is pictured far right with the Sandringham Company which he served as Company Sergeant-Major. Captain Frank Beck is fourth from left. Harry was fondly known as the Mayor of Wolferton within its community where he was actively involved in its events. He was chairman of the parish meeting, secretary of the village club, and captain of the cricket team for over 30 years. He was also a church warden at St Peter’s Church.

Photo of the Sandringham Company courtesy of the Beck Collection.


Find Out More

The Royal Station Master’s Daughters

Jessie, Beatrice and Ada were in real life the daughters of Harry Saward, Station Master at Wolferton, close to Sandringham House in Norfolk, the much loved country retreat of the royal family since 1862.

Harry Saward, Royal Station Master Extraordinaire

For forty years Harry ran Wolferton Station where European royal families and leading political figures of the day stopped off on their way to Sandringham. He earned the respect of all he met, always maintaining the highest professional standards with a sense of humour.

The Sandringham Company

The Sandringham Company was originally raised by Sandringham Estate Agent Frank Beck at the request of HM King Edward VII as a Volunteer Company of The Norfolk Regiment in 1906.