A History of Ramley


There are some substantial gaps in our knowledge of who owned Ramley when, but the following is put together using a variety of sources.  If you happen to come across any relevant information, please feel free to e-mail us at history@ramleyhouse.com, and we will amend our details accordingly. 

Ramley stands on land which was owned in the 14th century by the family of Clares.  John de Acton held it from Clares in 1346, during the reign of Edward III.  Ownership is unclear between 1346 and 1560, but it is then documented as being owned by John Martin.  It passed to John Cheeke, and was in the ownership of his successor Edward Cheeke in 1596, during the reign of Elizabeth I.  Ownership is unclear again until 1803, when Giles and Sophronia Stibbert sold it to George Tomline, Bishop of Lincoln.  It then passed into the ownership of the Pulteney family, who were Lords of the Manor of Pennington for many years.

Ramley House seems to have been built in 1805, the year in which Lord Nelson succeeded at the Battle of Trafalgar.  Ramley was reputed to have been built for a prosperous Jamaican sugar merchant, however the first name to appear in the land tax returns is that of a widow, Charlotte Rose.  Charlotte died in 1816, and the land tax returns for 1817 have an entry for Ramley House which reads: ‘Mr Hunt for his house and land, late Mrs Rose’.

James Hunt paid £1 12s each year in Land Tax on Ramley House as late as 1831.  However in 1832 the land tax was almost doubled to £2 9s.  This suggests that James Hunt had added substantially to Ramley, especially as the land taxes of other properties in the surrounding areas remained unchanged.   Assuming that the Italianate elements of the house were in place at this point, it might account for the local oral history of the house, which has the bellevue tower as the model for Queen Victoria’s tower at Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight, built between 1845 and 1851.

In 1842 a tithe map was drawn up for Pennington.  Tithes required that a tenth of the annual produce of the land, cattle and other sources of wealth in a parish be given to the Church.  The tithe map for 1842 showed that the owner and occupier of Ramley House was still James Hunt, and that his landholding was forty-four acres, one rod and twenty-six perches, and he paid £2 5s 4d in tithes to the vicar.  The house also had eleven fields attached, mostly in pasture and arable, but also with a small coppice, which is still known as Ramley Copse to this day, although no longer owned by Ramley House.

In the 1851 census James Hunt gave his age as eighty-four, and he shared his house with his unmarried daughters Martha (52), Harriot (43) and Maria (41).  His son Walter was 39, and listed as a retired solicitor.  There were also two domestics, Elizabeth Wareham and Hannah Smith.  James died in 1852, and the house was sold by the trustees of Edward Hunt (perhaps another son), to Edward Lomer.  The daughters of James Hunt moved to Mile End Cottage.

White’s History of Hampshire [1878] describes Edward Lomer as ‘one of the principal landowners‘ of the parish.  In 1852 he purchased Gordleton Farm, and in 1878 Little Howards, and in 1880 Bowers Copse.  He also had a house in Brunswick Square, Southampton.

Edward Lomer seems to have lived chiefly in Southampton, and the 1861 census shows Ramley let to William Warry, a native of Dorset.  William lived at Ramley with his wife Ellen, and their children William and Mary.  He also gave accommodation to his brother, John.  The family had three resident domestics.

By 1871 Ramley was standing unoccupied.  It may then have briefly been let by the explorer and ornithologist Thomas Wright Blakiston, who grew up in Lymington.  By 1881 certainly, Edward Lomer was living at Ramley again with his wife Sarah, and their children Ellen and Charles.  The Lomer’s had three domestics and a cook living at the house.  Upon Edward’s death in 1895, Charles put the estate up for sale, where it was described as a ‘freehold residential sporting estate’.  It now had two hundred and fifteen acres, and included Gordleton Farm and several cottages.

In 1898 The purchasers appears to have been William Henry Jollands and Richard Evans.  The Jollands also owned Upton Castle near Pembroke.

At some point at the end of the nineteenth century, Ramley seems to have been re-modelled again.  Certainly a number of changes can be seen in the photographs of the house over the last hundred years, particularly the extension of the drawing and games rooms.  Internally, the floating portland concrete staircase and skirting boards are reputed to have been installed by the builders of the Sway Tower nearby, which was constructed in 1875-1885.

On 1 June 1905, Jollands sold Ramley to Colonel Thomas Wood, who was also the owner of Gwernyfed Park in Breconshire.  Colonel Wood was a keen yachtsman and member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes.   He lived in Ramley with his wife the Hon. Maria, and their son William, who ran the estate. 

In 1922 the estate passed to Edward A Brown, of whom nothing is known.  In 1935 the 213 acre estate was auctioned in three lots by Knight, Frank and Rutley, and we have a copy of the sales brochure, complete with a map of the site, and photos of the house as it existed then.  Lot 1 included the main house and thirty-one acres, with the gardener’s and chauffeur’s cottages.  Lot 2 listed Gordleton Farm and around 180 acres, and Lot 3  the newly-built Avonsleigh.  The purchaser of Ramley House was Ernest Vaughan.  Although he died in the early 1940’s, his wife lived at the house for many years, passing the war with a cellar full of tinned food, a cow for milk, and with the gardeners growing enough food to maintain the estate.

Mrs Vaughan ‘downsized’ and sold the house to Sir Thomas Beecham, the famous wit, conductor, founder of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, and artistic director of the Royal Opera House.  Sir Beecham seems to have used it as his country retreat rather than residing there permanently.  In  March 1958, before touring South America, he sold the house to Thomas and Hester Spencer.  They were joined by Lady Audrey Readett-Bayley, Terrence’s grandmother.

In March 1973 Ramley House was offered for sale, but does not appear to have changed hands until 1978, when the Spencer’s left.  It passed to Polish hoteliers Kazamir and Rita Zuchewicz.  However when they were refused planning permission for an extension, they sold it on to Malcolm and Diana Thomas in 1979. 

Initially the Thomas’ ran the house as a small country hotel.  The brochure boasts that the chef offered ‘fresh produce wherever possible’.  The brochure shows a bar in the dining room, and the restaurant in the games room.  Locals tell us that they brought their dates to Ramley House, although no-one remembers if the produce was ‘fresh’ or not.  In 1984-85 the Thomas’ turned the hotel into a nursing home, and built the Lodge extension.  They themselves lived in the StableHouse, situated next to the Lodge. 

In 1999 Ramley House suffered a fire when one of the elderly residents set fire to his bedding with a cigarette.  Fire engines came from a twenty mile radius in response to the fire, although the resident later died in hospital.  It became impossible for the Thomas’ to re-furbish the house to a suitable standard, especially in light of the increased legislation for care homes.  In 2002 Ramley was again further divided, when the main house and the Lodge were purchased by Peter Rawlins, and the StableHouse was sold separately. 

The Rawlins lived in the house with their children until 2007 when it was purchased  by the Roe’s. 

A two acre kitchen garden, which had remained in the ownership of the Spencer family, was sold at the same time and is now in the ownership of Tim Phillips, who is in the process of renovating the walled garden, and victorian glasshouse.  Tim has planted vines, and the walled garden is one of his vineyards which include those in South Africa and Italy.  You can find out more about the vineyard at


The Roe’s now live at Ramley.