The History of Ravenwood Hall
Shrouded in Mystery
No -one, not even expert researchers can be sure exactly who built Ravenwood Hall, formally known as the Rookery... But there are clues… It is believed to have been built around 1530 during the reign of Henry V111 for a woman of some local importance.
How do we know that?
Well, architectural historians have deduced that the shape of the satire; a small diagonal cross that appears in the wood carvings on the exterior of the hall and above the fireplace in the dining room, signifies that it was built for a woman. The level of the craftsmanship also indicates the family would have been extremely wealthy. Perhaps it was built as a dower house for a matriarch figure…
But who was she?
She may have been Elizabeth Drury, the widow of John Drury who lived in Rougham Manor, the ruins of which still lie a mile to the East. John, who was born in 1499, was the fifth generation Drury to succeed at Rougham and was married twice. The Manor house was destroyed and rebuilt before eventually being bombed to destruction during World War II - but that's another story!
If not for the Drurys this fine Tudor house may have been built for another prominent local family. There is a couple that feature in the subsidy return of 1524 when Henry VIII levied an unpopular tax on the population. Experts believe it was unlikely to have been built for a prosperous farmer because of the level of rich ornament. It may have been a businessman who had bought or leased the site from either John Drury or the Abbey of St Edmundsbury, who owned the manor house before it was confiscated by Henry in 1539.
Over the following centuries the house was intrinsically linked to Rougham Manor, sadly many relating records had been destroyed with the house. However, legal documents show that the house was part of the Rougham estate until only a few decades ago.
By 1844 the house had eventually became known as the Rookery, with a certain Robert Bevan listed as living there. The Bevan family married into the Gurney and Lee families of East Anglia who made up the emergent bank known today as Barclays. Until only a few years ago chairman of Barclays was Timothy Bevan, in the census of 1851 Bevan was recorded as living at the Rookery.
But in 1853 the owner of the manor Philip Bennet died and the estate passed to Captain Philip Bennet. By 1866 the third Philip Bennet took up residence at Rougham Manor until 1875 when it passed to E. J. Johnstone who was responsible for donating the organ to the village church in 1900. The Rookery itself passed on a short ten-year lease from the Bennet family to a Spencer Brinton formerly of Park Lane in Middlesex.
The 20th Century
More recent history sees the house used for the convalescence of injured soldiers from the front in the Great War. Photographs taken at the time are seen hanging in the bar and lounge. These were found by pure accident when a local estate agent bought an old camera and found the film to be still intact inside. On having the pictures developed he recognised the exterior as Ravenwood Hall Hotel.
By the 1920’s the estate and the Rookery had been bought by the Agnew family whose descendents still live in Rougham. In fact Lady Agnew lives just through the woods and her two sons are very active in cultural village life.
The house was then bought from the Agnews by Col and Mrs Peter Dean who lived here and raised their daughters for 20 years.
They finally sold it to Craig Jarvis in 1986 who then converted it to a hotel and restaurant. Mrs Dean live in the nearby village of Tostock and visit the hotel regularly for family parties and special occasions. In fact one of the bedrooms is named after them.