'It's a gem of an untold story' - Ely author, Ellee shares new novel

Ely author Ellee Seymour secured a three book deal during the Covid-19 lockdown for The Royal Station Master's Daughters

Ely author Ellee Seymour secured a three book deal during the Covid-19 lockdown for The Royal Station Master's Daughters series by Zaffre, an imprint of Bonnier Books. - Credit: Ellee Seymour

An author from Ely has shared some information about her new novel called 'The Royal Station Master's Daughters'

Ellee Seymour secured a three book deal during the Covid-19 lockdown for the series of books by Zaffre, an imprint of Bonnier Books.

In her own words, Ellee explains more.

“Roll out the red carpet. The royal train is due in half an hour and there’s not a minute to be wasted."

This opening line in The Royal Station Master’s Daughters describes what would have once been a regular occurrence at Wolferton Station.

Ely author Ellee at Wolferton Station.

Ely author Ellee at Wolferton Station. - Credit: Ellee Seymour

Staff busied themselves putting together the finishing touches to greet their latest royal visitors who rested in the royal suite of retiring rooms before continuing their journey to Sandringham House.

As we look forward to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June marking an historic 70 year reign, the longest ever for a British monarch, this is the perfect time to reflect on life at this once bustling rural Norfolk station where royals were welcomed from all over Europe and beyond.

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It is an area I have visited many times and is very close to my heart. I can recall my first visit there with my parents when it was a museum, my sense of awe as I stared into glass cabinets crammed with royal relics, intrigued by its royal history.

The restored royal retiring rooms.

One of the restored royal retiring rooms at Wolfreton Station. - Credit: Ellee Seymour

The book cover of Ellee Seymour's novel 'The Royal Station Master's Daughter'.

The book cover of Ellee Seymour's novel 'The Royal Station Master's Daughter'. - Credit: Ellee Seymour

I learnt about the extraordinary life of royal station master Harry Saward, who ran Wolferton Station from 1884 – 1924, from his great grandson, Brian Heath and felt this was a gem of an untold story that readers would enjoy.

Brian was keen for me to write it, his sense of pride in his ancestor’s distinguished royal career is immense and he wants people to know the high regard in which Harry was held by royals; he was clearly much more than an ordinary station master.

Brian said: “Harry was bestowed medals and honours for the way he conducted his work with royals.

"He was rewarded for his loyalty and invited to state dinners at Sandringham House where he mingled with crowned heads of state and distinguished guests."

Station master Harry Saward pictured at Wolferton Station.

Station master Harry Saward pictured at Wolferton Station. - Credit: Ellee Seymour

Brian Heath, great grandson of station master Harry Saward.

Brian Heath, great grandson of station master Harry Saward. - Credit: Ellee Seymour

The Royal Station Master’s Daughters is a WW1 historical saga and I have stayed true to the names of Harry’s wife, Sarah, and their daughters Jessie, Beatrice and Ada.

I've added fictious characters, including their relative Maria who turns the Saward family’s life upside down when she arrives out of the blue with a big secret, and the eccentric Greensticks sisters and their family of cats.

The book includes the tragic story of the Gallipoli Campaign, when estate workers joined the Sandringham Company to serve King and country and suffered horrific losses, and the impact this had on the women who were left to grieve in this tight knit community.

Actors, musicians and even a circus also alighted at Wolferton to provide entertainment for the royal family at Sandringham.

Edward V11 and King Alfonso of Spain inspecting the Sandringham Regiment, Wolferton Station, 1907.

Edward V11 and King Alfonso of Spain inspecting the Sandringham Regiment, Wolferton Station, 1907. - Credit: Ellee Seymour

In fact, Harry recorded 645 royal special trains between 1884 – 1911 in an article he wrote for a railway magazine. One of his recollections describes loading an elephant onto a truck – and the mayhem and destruction that followed!

In Harry’s own words: “I was appointed station master here in October 1884 and within three months of that date took place the festivities at Sandringham in connection with the coming of age of Prince Albert Victor (the late Duke of Clarence).

"There was a command performance of Sanger’s circus to the employees on the Sandringham estate.

"The whole show was conveyed by special trains to and from Wolferton, and when loading up at the station we had a little excitement with a large elephant.

"He was to be loaded in a covered carriage-truck, but showed some reluctance to enter. As a temporary measure, one of the men tied the elephant’s chain to a neighbouring lamp post which the animal promptly uprooted.

"He then proceeded to demolish the station gates which he threw into the middle of the road."

Harry Saward in his dinner jacket and wearing medals.

Harry Saward in his dinner jacket and wearing medals. - Credit: Ellee Seymour

Book two in the trilogy, The Royal Station Master’s Daughters at War, will be available as an e-book in September and paperback in April 2023.

The Ely Standard / Wisbech Standard has teamed up with Zaffre, publishers of The Royal Station Master’s Daughters, to give three books to readers who can tell us their royal stories.

Have you met any of the royal family? Do you recall past royal Jubilee celebrations? We would love to hear from you. Please email john.elworthy@archant.co.uk.

Winners will be announced in next week’s paper.