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Author Ellee Seymour tells untold tale of royal station in The Royal Station Master’s Daughters at War

Ely-based author Ellee Seymour’s new historical novel is the second in an ambitious trilogy set during the First World War. The second book is called The Royal Station Master’s Daughters at War and the novels in the trilogy are not historical works but have been inspired by events of the time.

Ellee Seymour
Ellee Seymour

All three are set at Wolferton Royal Station and Sandringham, home to the royal family since 1862. “What inspired me is that it was really a story that had never been told, about the station and the royal retiring rooms there,” explains Ellee, a former journalist who has also worked in PR as well as in the biotech and healthcare industries.

“So it’s the only station of its kind left in existence in the country. There’s two platforms – the upside platform which used to travel from London to Hunstanton, but the station closed in 1969 and was last used by the royal family in 1965.

“It closed because people were just using their own cars and their own way of getting about, rather than the Beeching cuts – it escaped those. But what’s unique is that each platform has its own set of royal retiring rooms, and so one suite would be for the king and his male guests and the other side for the queen and her female guests.

“So many royal families used to alight at that platform; every Prime Minister of the day at one time used to step off there, and I was put in touch with somebody called Brian Heath, who’s the great-grandson of Harry Saward, who was the station master there from 1884 for 40 years, so to 1924.

“His story had never been told before and Brian just felt that he should have some recognition, so he put me in touch with different family members and then I started to do some research. Because there’s very little archival material about Harry and his life during that time, I had to fictionalise it and try and be true to the events of the time as they happened.”

Ellee, who has had four books published by leading publishers and enjoyed a sell-out launch at Heffers for her 2014 novel The Shop Girls, continues: “It’s just a case of bringing the story to life and making it appeal to as many readers as possible, so it’s not just a ‘railways story’.

“But also I wanted to write about women’s lives and the struggles that they would have faced during this time, because I feel that can be overlooked by male historians, so there’s a lot of social history in it.”

During the Covid lockdown, Ellee was offered a three-book deal by Bonnier Books to write the trilogy. The first book in the series, The Royal Station Master’s Daughters, was published last year.

“The daughters’ names are true,” says Ellee, “and I’m trying to stay a little bit true to their characters as I was told by Brian, but again there’s little archival material about them. But one of them was married to the royal messenger, another one was married to an organist at Cromer, so that’s true.

“Another one didn’t marry, but she did work in the post office for a while with her mother and help out in the royal retiring rooms.”

The second novel in the trilogy came out on March 2 and the author says she is now “70,000 words” into the third. “Book three will deal with the aftermath of the war,” she notes, “so it’s soldiers returning home with no jobs, disabled, struggling to get their pensions, some families thrown into the workhouse because they can’t exist, and these things really happened.”

For more information on Ellee and her work, visit elleeseymour.com.

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