New Owners Save The Ravenswood

Friday, May 19th, 2017

500-year-old Sharpthorne wedding venue won’t be turned into homes

By WojciechZ | Posted: April 10, 2017, | Surrey Mirror

Developers have been stopped from turning a 500-year-old hotel in Sharpthorne into homes thanks to it being bought by new owners.

Steve McArthur, the former owner of the Ravenswood Country House Inn on Horsted Lane, decided it was time to retire after running it for over 30 years.

Despite wanting his hotel to remain a wedding venue, Mr McArthur submitted plans to convert the 500-year-old hotel into residential units in case he didn’t find a buyer who was willing to keep it as it was.

Mr McArthur stopped taking bookings in January and was in the process of closing the business down, when a local wedding photographer stumbled across it.

Samantha Wordie, who lives in Imberhorne Lane, East Grinstead, said: “It was a complete coincidence. I met a lovely couple who were looking to get married. They’d been to see a wedding venue but found it was too ‘hotel-y’ so I offered to put forward a list of 10 or 15 local venues and when I went online to find the Ravenswood website it was down.”

Miss Wordie, who has photographed over 180 weddings in her life, thought they might have forgotten to renew their domain name and got in touch with the owners.

“That was when I found out that they had stopped taking bookings and were closed and it went from there,” she said.

“You don’t ever expect something like this to come up for sale. We were just looking at barns or farmland that you could build a barn on.”

It took Miss Wordie, 35, as little as three days to decided she wanted to buy the venue and got together with businessman Stuart Guy and other friends, officially purchasing it on Monday (April 10).

She said: “Stuart and I had been looking for a venue to buy for a few years. When we found out the Ravenswood was being sold and possibly converted into apartments, we decided the place was too beautiful to be lost to developers and we got together to save it.

“Obviously this is on a baby scale [by comparison] but it would be like if they said they were turning the Ashdown [Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club] into residential properties. You can’t do that, it would be horrible.

“I have always wanted to run my own dream wedding venue. With all its character, charm and history, that’s exactly what the Ravenswood is – not only for weddings but also for parties, conferences, concerts and all manner of other events.”

Ravenswood is a unique property, set in 20 acres of lawns, gardens and lakes, with four function rooms and 34 bedrooms, six of which have four-poster beds.

The original part of the house was built in 1426 and has seen many interesting owners and occupiers over the years, most notably Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, as well as Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.

Despite still being in the changeover phase with Mr McArthur sticking around to help the new owners get to grips, it’s already back to business at Ravenswood, with Sunday lunch and live jazz being held every Sunday from noon until 3pm.

“This is a dream come true for Stuart and me,” said Miss Wordie. “We want people to know we’re fully open for business and ready to take bookings right now.”

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