HISTORY OF RAMSTER
The oldest part of the house dates from the early 17th century, when it was built by a wealthy glass maker, Chiddingfold (Surrey) then being the centre of the glass making industry in England.
It was constructed as a timber-framed, central chimney house, with close studding. Even then it was an important house for its time, with two parlours, an upstairs and service rooms. With the decline of the glass making industry it became a farm and the Long Hall was built at the end of the 17th century as a five bay barn opening onto the farmyard, now the Courtyard.
Rams Nest as it was then called, continued a peaceful farming existence with the house being variously modernised and updated over the centuries, until in 1900 it was bought by Sir Harry Waechter who converted the farmhouse into an Edwardian country house, suitable for a gentleman of the period. He changed the barn into the present magnificent beamed and panelled hall, and built the Great Drawing Room and the Brick Hall and added the tower for good measure.
Sir Harry Waechter laid the foundations of the present garden, he created them out of the oak woodland. He was helped by the well-known nurseries, Gauntletts of Chiddingfold, whose nursery adjoined the garden. Gauntletts were famous for their interest in Japanese plants and ornaments and the Japanese influence is still maintained in the garden today. The stone lanterns, the cranes, now happily feeding in the pond, the clumps of bamboo, the masses of evergreen azaleas and the avenue of maples are typical of the Japanese style features used in the gardens they designed.
The soil in the garden is acid to neutral, and consists of Wealden clay, with pockets of sand, making it ideal for rhododendrons, azaleas and flowering shrubs. Great care is taken to preserve the natural woodland character of the garden. The grass paths, the carpets of wild flowers and the wonderful mature native trees make a perfect setting for the flowering shrubs. No good garden stands still, and Ramster today is a flourishing garden, with new projects, plantings and improvements being undertaken every year.
In 1922 the property was bought by Sir Henry and Lady Norman. She was the daughter of Lord and Lady Aberconway, and grand-daughter of Henry Pochin, who started the famous gardens at Bodnant in 1875. A very keen horticulturalist like her mother and grandfather, she greatly added to the garden at Ramster Hall, introducing many of the Rhododendrons and Azaleas for which it is famous today. Some of them were grown from seed brought back by the great plant collectors, and others were the result of her own crosses.
In 1927 the garden was first opened for the National Gardens Scheme, and remains one of the few original gardens which are still open. Sir Henry Norman was a Liberal MP, cabinet minister, writer, explorer and amateur scientist. He was greatly involved in the introduction of wireless telegraphy he conducted experiments in the garden. Many of his artifacts from his many explorations are in the halls today.
In 2005 Ramster was passed onto the fourth generation, Malcolm and Rosie Glaister, from Rosie’s parents Paul and Miranda Gunn. Paul is the son of Sir James Gunn and like him an artist. The portraits in the Great Drawing Room by James Gunn are of Hilaire Belloc, James Pryde and Pauline, Paul’s mother with the children. There is a self-portrait of James Gunn in the Long Hall.
Earning it’s Keep
But gone are the leisured Edwardian days, and Ramster Hall now has to work hard for its living. The Long Hall is the scene of many happy wedding receptions and parties and The Great Drawing Room is licensed for Civil Marriages as well. Several thousand visitors tour the gardens every year. There are two gardeners to replace the 40 outdoor staff of former times. Keeping the weeds down and the replanting up is a constant but enjoyable battle for the family. With the latest generation of the family taking over the responsibility of running Ramster Hall we organise Corporate Events, Theatre-in-the-Garden and are proud of the many charities we support by hosting events here, charity fairs, clay pigeon shoots, dinners, operas and charity balls to name a few.