The Ringlestone Inn is an historic public house and restaurant, located in the Ringlestone hamlet near the village of Wormshill in Kent, England. Dating back to the reign of Henry VIII (1509–1547) the current Grade II listed building was constructed in 1533 and retains its original brick and flint walls and oak beams. The interior is unchanged since around 1732 and includes tables crafted from the timbers of an 18th-century Thames barge. An inscription on an ancient oak sideboard formerly found at the property reads: A Ryghte Joyouse and welcome greetynge too ye all, it is now located at Knole as it is inscribed with the names John Tufton, Earl of Thanet and Margaret Sackville (his wife) of Knole.
|Town or city||Ringlestone hamlet|
|Structural system||Brick and flint walls with oak beams|
The history of the Ringlestone Inn has been researched by a number of previous owners and is broadly thought to be as follows:
Ringlestone or Rongostone (meaning "ring of stones") dates back to before the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Confusingly for research into the locality's history, "Ringleton" also cited in the Domesday Book (and appearing in the Kent Hundred Rolls of 1274 as "Ringlestone"), was a manor near the Ringlemere barrow, Woodnesborough (also in Kent). In addition a suburb of the nearby town of Maidstone is also called "Ringlestone".
The present-day inn was originally a hospice, owned by the church for the sanctuary of monks, who are believed to have farmed the land surrounding the inn. In addition other medieval dwellings have been uncovered on the site. Around 1539, the monks are believed to have left (likely imprisoned or executed), following the dissolution of the monasteries ordered by Henry VIII.
The inn is then referenced in a will dated 1588, when a Julius Papworth Quiller directed that
"my house at Rongoston and land thereto belonging be sold to pay my debts and legacies".
Hepplewhite operated a small cooperage from the site until his death in 1609, following which his wife and eldest son took over the house and cooperage business. Oliver Hepplewhite, under the direction of his mother, introduced the production and sale of ale to the property around 1615.
In common with the times, local breweries (three are listed in the parish of Harrietsham during this period) would fund small drinking establishments to promote their products, such establishments, requiring a licence under the Ale Houses Act 1551, were known as 'ale-houses'.
During the next 150 years, the inn grew in popularity and travellers stopped there for refreshment en route to and from London to the settlements of Kent. Samuel Cooper, a celebrated 17th century miniaturist, is said to have visited the house in 1656. A "Gentleman of the Road" (or highwayman) Elias Shepherd, known to have held up coaches between Faversham and Canterbury, is believed to have frequented the inn (Shepherd was captured at Charing and hanged at Penenden Heath in 1765).
On Friday 1 March 1788, two smugglers, named John Roberts and Francis Whorlow who were both wanted for the murder of two dragoons and the smuggling of five-thousand gallons of genever (or Dutch) gin at Whitstable, were arrested at "Ringleton" and taken to Faversham gaol. In his defence at the Old Bailey, John Roberts provided the alibi that he was visiting his family at "Ringleton" at the time the murders took place. In the face of this evidence both men were acquitted. The owner of the Ringlestone Inn at the time is recorded as "Avery Roberts".
The name Rongoston has evolved since the time the Inn was built. This is believed to be due to mispronunciation over the course of time. In 1822 the house became known as the Renglestone and a sign hung announcing it. The Inn continued to be known as such until 1867 when it was changed, for the final time, to the present-day Ringlestone Inn.
20th Century to present dayEdit
At least from 1901  until his death in 1905, the innkeeper was Henry Brooks Bates. It is not known when he first became innkeeper but from the censuses available it was between 1891 and 1901. In 1913 Charles Alfred Rayfield took over the inn. Rayfield was the father of Charles 'Gunner' Rayfield, the soldier who may have fired the first artillery shot against the Germans in the First World War.
In 1958 Florence (Ma) and Dora Gasking (who were mother and daughter) took over the inn. Building a notorious reputation they were frequently armed with a shotgun, inspecting their clientele and requiring unwanted guests to leave. They are also said to have thrown concrete blocks from the windows and required a speakeasy-style series of secret knocks to gain entry to the pub. Their behaviour is believed to stem from an occasion when the inn was inundated by around 300 bikers.
From the late 20th century to 2018, the inn has largely operated as a public house and restaurant and was purchased by Kent brewers, Shepherd Neame in 2005. As of May 2018 the inn was closed, with poor online reviews cited as a cause, and the building was being prepared for auction.
August 2019 saw the Ringlestone Inn open its doors once again after an 18 month closure and refurbishment, and is now a free house as it once was. New owners Dalton Hopper and Paolo Rigolli have undertaken extensive work whilst retaining all original brickwork.
- Patrons and owners have described seeing an elderly couple regularly drinking near the house's inglenook fireplace.
- A further apparition is said to walk up the cellar steps, halting at the top and removing one boot which is then thrown to the floor, however the figure never takes off the other boot.
- Maintenance or renovations of the property by various owners and live-in staff have also allegedly resulted in paranormal activity.
- Children have been said to appear in the inn, behaving mischievously. One owner noted a small boy who appeared to vanish through a wall which, it was later found out, was originally a doorway. The owner's family subsequently learned that a young boy, who had lived upstairs, had previously died at the inn.
A story promoted by previous owners concerns a small boy - possibly the son of the landlord at the time - who was allegedly caught poaching on the surrounding farm land. At that time the penalty was harsh - being imprisonment or possibly death. In order to protect their son, the innkeepers decided to conceal the child for a time from the local farmers and constabulary. The child was said to have been put in a small cavity in an old fireplace in the cellar with a brick wall built in front to shield him and a small hole left through which to feed him. Eventually the food stopped being taken, so the father inserted the last brick. The wall has supposedly not been disturbed since the couple, now childless, left the Ringlestone.
- Chocks away: Richard Johnson downs a few incoming pints of Spitfire in Kent article from The Independent, 13 April 2002
- History of the Ringlestone Inn Archived 22 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Ringlestone's entry in the Domesday Book at the National Archives
- Kent Hundred Rolls by the Kent Archaeological Society
- Given Penenden Heath's proximity to the present-day Maidstone suburb of Ringlestone, it is unclear whether documentary references uncovered by previous owners are to the Ringlestone hamlet or the area of greater-Maidstone.
- It is not clear, however, that the "Ringleton" cited in the smuggler's defence is the present-day Ringlestone hamlet or the manor of Ringleton near Woodnesborough (which is some distance closer to Whitstable) and that the "Roberts" connection may simply be coincidence.
- 1901 census
- England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966
- From an article appearing in the Kent Messenger, 11 March 1977
- Kent Messenger Group online
- Eastenders visit Kent Archived 26 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine from Kent Film Office
- Ringlestone Inn at Ghosts.org.uk
- A study in paranormal activity at the Ringlestone Inn
- McNamara, Patrick. "Documentary on The Ringlestone Inn". GhostCircleTV. GhostCircle. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Janet, Cameron (2005). Haunted Kent. Tempus Publishing.