My Great Grandfather Harry Saward

by Brian Heath

Brian Heath at Wolferton Station

Harry has always been one of my favourites when learning about the family history from my late father Leslie, Harry’s grandson.

We are all so immensely proud to have Harry in our family tree. He is a great role model for success in work, life and recreation, and setting a good moral and ethical standard, whilst being able to mix with all walks of life, from royalty, politicians and ordinary folk. He must have been devastated when many of his friends serving with his beloved Sandringham Company were wiped out at Gallipoli. I am sure Sarah, Harry and his daughters did the best they could to hold the community together. It would have been doubly worrying with his son-in-law Alfred Heath on the Western Front in the Artists Rifles.

Having migrated to Australia in 1961 as £10 poms, us children had no further interaction with many of our relatives and it was not until many years later that I met some, and even more years when I really started doing some serious family history research that I met others for the first time in 60 years. We had a few family photos and some historical notes dad had written, but not much more to go on.

Harry was rewarded for his loyalty and social skills by being invited to state dinners where he mingled with crowned heads of state and distinguished guests. He would have been invited along with a handful of local people to these occasions, and Harry would dress formally, his medals pinned proudly on his dinner jacket.

My First Visit To Wolferton

I first visited Wolferton in 1988. With Uncle Ray, Leslie’s brother. It was amazing to learn how my family roots were from such an historic place on the royal estate, and to see the church where my grandparents were married my great grandparents and are now buried next to each other. I was really moved.

I always love visiting Harry and Sarah’s grave, in pride of place under the tree near the church gate at St Peters. As I placed flowers I would say “hello” to the old boy. Its location is not far from his beloved station, house and cricket ground which makes it even more poignant, especially now I know a lot more about Harry’s life and history.

The Graves of Harry and Sarah Saward

Harry’s Treasured Gifts From Royalty

Harry’s retirement gift from George V speaks volumes about the high regard in which he was held. The King presented Harry 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, and for Harry to have been gifted the first copy is really special. It was also signed and dedicated to Harry by the King.

Numbers two and three of the limited print are owned by the Sandringham estate and Lords respectively. It is now a treasured family heirloom in my possession that was passed down to me by my father Leslie, due to our passion for cricket.

Leslie recalls, “Cricket in the village was always a pleasure to watch in summer. The whole of the ground was much larger than anything I have ever seen as a playing area and the setting was a delight being surrounded by trees and rhododendrons on three sides and the Rectory grounds on the fourth.”

Faberge Pin

Among the fabulous gifts given to Harry by royalty was an exquisite Farbergé pin. This was gifted to him by Tzar Nicholas II of Russia and sold for £1,000 in 1982. It is now believed to belong to a member of the British royal family and is valued at £10,000.

Harry was also given a Paul Buhre gold watch by the Dowager Russian Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, Queen Alexandra’s sister, but its whereabouts is unknown. There’s no doubt that today it would be very valuable.

Prince John

Dad used to tell me that he played with Prince John, the prince who died from epilepsy in 1919 aged only thirteen. My father used to go to Wood Farm where he lived, and Prince John used to like watching the trains. I’ve even heard that he used to sweep the platform.

Richard Howlett, Godfather to Harry’s Grandson

Richard Howlett was George V’s most trusted valet and godfather to my father Leslie. One day he took my father, when he was aged 14 or so, to Buckingham Palace with him on the train. It must have been quite a wonderful adventure for someone his age. He also joined Richard on a New Year’s Day shoot. It was Richard’s job to load the King’s gun.

A Royal Graveside Encounter

 One story passed down is when Leslie’s sister, Barbara, was looking at Harry’s grave in the 1930s. A woman came up and started talking to her. She asked Barbara why she was looking at the grave, and Barbara told her about her grandfather’s life as the royal station master. The woman listened with great interest. The woman she was speaking to was our former Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother..

Harry and Sarah

Leslie recalls that his grandfather Harry had the most even temperament of anyone he met and had great height and stature, which you can see clearly on the photo of him with the Sandringham Company, and Brian says he has inherited his height, while granny Saward, who worked as an attendant at the royal waiting rooms, was a real stickler for details. Both are very fondly remembered for their way of life and their hospitality. Christmas at Wolferton was a family tradition and each one we had there was a joy. Dad recalled that Christmas’s at the station house were always fabulous with lots of people and music.