by Scott Mehl
Park House is located on the Sandringham Estate, just to the west of Sandringham House. The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) acquired Sandringham in 1862 and had several houses built the following year, including Park House and York Cottage. Finding the original Sandringham House too small to accommodate all the guests and household, these two houses were used to house the ‘overflow’. Park House became the home of General Sir William Knollys, the Prince of Wales’ Treasurer and Comptroller from 1866-1877. (Interesting side-note – Three of Sir William’s children also spent their lives in royal service. His son Francis, 1st Viscount Knollys, was Private Secretary to Kings Edward VII and George V; son Henry was Private Secretary to Princess Maud, Queen of Norway; and daughter Charlotte was Private Secretary to the Princess of Wales/Queen Alexandra, and remained her constant companion until Alexandra’s death in 1925.)
Most know Park House as the birthplace of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1961. But the family history goes back a little further. In the 1930s, King George V leased Park House to his friend Edmund Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy. Baron Fermoy and his wife (later a Woman of the Bedchamber and close confidante to The Queen Mother), had three children born at Park House, including daughter Frances in 1936. Frances, of course, was Diana’s mother.
Frances married John Spencer, Viscount Althorp in 1954 and the couple took over the lease on Park House from her parents. Diana was born here seven years later, and Spencer retained the least until 1975 when he became Earl Spencer and moved to the family home, Althorp.
In 1983, The Queen offered the house to Leonard Cheshire Disability, a charity of which she is Patron. The trustees decided to convert the house into a country house hotel for disabled people. After several years of renovations, the new Park House Hotel hosted its first guests in April 1987, with the official opening by The Queen in July 1987.