The Ancient Ram Inn, a historical gem in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, is renowned for both its rich history and its haunted reputation. Over the years, it has been known as the Old Tan House, Horse Pool House, and finally, The Ram Inn since 1820. This building is believed to be the oldest continuously occupied and documented site in Wotton-Under-Edge, having survived the fire that destroyed most other buildings around 1200.
The original structure of the Ancient Ram Inn was a hall house with a timber frame, which was later encased in stonework. The rear of the building was added around 1400, while the front face was constructed around 1600. The middle chimney is off-set from the centre, suggesting that it may be a later addition. There wouldn’t have originally been a chimney in a hall house, which would have had an open hearth. The oldest surviving part of the building is the Mayflower Barn, which some historians believe could have initially been a Saxon church.
The building’s history is well-documented through various deeds for the transfer of the building, dating back to 1350. These deeds mention the building’s proximity to Wotton Mill, which implies that Potters Pond could be the site of the oldest mill in the area.
One significant event in the Ancient Ram Inn’s history is its possible construction in 1290 by Maurice de Bathe, as suggested by Bath Abbey archives. This indicates the longstanding history of the Ancient Ram Inn and its importance as a historical site.
Another noteworthy period in the building’s history is when it became known as the Old Tan House in 1694. At this time, Edward Wallington and Edward Birton granted the building to Jonathan Nelmes, who was the mayor. This marked a new chapter in the building’s history, as it took on a different function and identity.
A further transformation occurred in 1724 when the Ancient Ram Inn was referred to as Horse Pool House, following a lease for one year to Edward Gregory and others. This change in the building’s name reflects its evolving roles and purposes over time.
In 1820, the building became a pub known as The Ram Inn, with a 99-year lease granted to William Stoner of Kingswood. The pub bottled and sold its own mineral water, sourced from a spring behind the inn. It changed ownership multiple times, before eventually closing as a pub in 1965.
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Three years later, John Humphries, a cabinet maker by trade, bought the property for around £2,000. The purchase agreement included a clause prohibiting John from reopening the property as a pub due to competition concerns from the brewery. Even the cellar was filled to prevent its use as a pub.
John initially intended to open the Ancient Ram Inn as a guest house, based on the success of another guest house he ran five miles away in Dursley. However, following the closure of the guest house business, John continued to live in the property full-time until he moved into a care home 18 months before his death in December 2017 at the age of 89. His daughter, Caroline Humphries, now owns the inn.
Caroline was seven when she moved into the inn with her father John and mother Barbara. She left the home at the age of 13 after her parents’ separation, as John came to terms with his sexuality, which he had been forced to hide due to the illegality of homosexuality in the UK until 1967. John was eventually buried in a nearby church cemetery, overlooking the inn and even ensuring that his final resting place faced the property.
The inn sits close to a site that was once a large pond, which served a neighbouring mill. Remnants of flowing water can still be found, including an underground stream that flows beneath the inn itself and emerges just beyond the property’s boundary. The area used to be known as Synwell, which is believed to be Celtic for “Seven Wells.”
The Ancient Ram Inn’s paranormal reputation skyrocketed after appearing on television shows like ‘Ghost Adventures’ and ‘Most Haunted.’ Caroline Humphries, the current owner of the inn, recounted stories of guests leaving in the middle of the night, claiming they couldn’t stay any longer due to the strange occurrences.
As a child, Caroline lived in the attic bedroom and experienced unexplained events, such as her bedside cabinet being thrown down the stairs, which she attributes to poltergeist activity. She claims to still experience paranormal phenomena at the inn, with the frequency depending on the company she keeps at the time.
During its time as a guest house, there were three guest rooms, including the Berkley Room, which was named after a local annual hunt meet. This room has since become known as the Bishop’s Room due to its links to Reverend John Yates, a former Bishop of Gloucester, who unsuccessfully tried to exorcise the pub. He said after his visit that the inn was “the most evil place I have ever had the misfortune to visit.”
At the other end of the building was the Beaufort Room, named after another local hunt. This room has been renamed to reflect its ghostly occupant, a witch. Nestled between the two rooms is a small, single guest room called The Den, named after the fox’s den, which was the focal point of the hunts.
John Humphries, the previous owner of the Ancient Ram Inn, had a deep love for history and a passion for preserving the inn’s heritage. His appreciation for jazz music and dancing brought life to the inn, as he often invited locals back from the pub after hours. Caroline, his daughter, believes that these gatherings contributed to the inn’s energy, as people experienced even stranger occurrences, although she acknowledges that alcohol might have played a role in these perceptions.
The Ancient Ram Inn continued to serve as a community hub until at least December 1978, as evidenced by a letter from a local church to John Humphries. Stanley Tichinf thanked John for hosting the annual “Living Crib” event, a nativity reenactment featuring a real donkey, for 14 years in the inn’s barn. Tichinf wrote that the inn’s status as the oldest property in Wotton-under-Edge and a former inn added to the event’s presentation.
John Humphries not only publicised the inn’s haunting but also worked tirelessly to uncover and restore its historical features. One of his first tasks was to replace the flat asbestos roof of the Mayflower Barn with a more fitting roof reclaimed from nearby Nailsworth, to better match the original. He also discovered one of the oldest timber frame windows in the UK, highlighting the inn’s architectural significance.
Over the centuries, the inn has undergone significant changes. The original t-shaped building was much larger, with another wing extending up the hill towards the town. This part of the inn once housed stables for visiting coaches, with the Old Hay Loft remaining as the only clue to its former use.
John’s discoveries within the inn included a mummified cat found in the Bishop’s Room’s inglenook, which is now displayed in a glass case in the living room. Additionally, some lesser-known mummified rats were found in the building, hidden away in the old hay loft.
The Ancient Ram Inn evolved into a ghost hunting event location, attracting historians and ghost hunters alike. According to Caroline, this transformation happened by accident, as the inn was never bought for that purpose. John’s passion for the inn’s history and his commitment to preserving its heritage have left a lasting impact on the community and visitors, making the Ancient Ram Inn a unique and fascinating destination.
The paranormal occurrences at the Ancient Ram Inn created a significant conflict for John Humphries, a devout Christian who even trained to be a Baptist minister before moving into the inn. Despite his strong faith, John could not ignore the strange events happening within the inn, feeling tormented at night by what he called a “sex demon.” He believed that his faith attracted this sinister entity and carried his Bible with him for protection. John would often pray and question why his life did not align with the teachings of the Bible and whether the devil was sent because of his faith.
The stories of the inn’s demons persist today, with some claiming that a male entity called an incubus preys on women, while others believe it to be a female counterpart called a succubus that seduces men. Caroline, John’s daughter, explained that one demon might change sex depending on its prey. Considering her father’s sexuality, Caroline believes he was attacked by the male version, as he knew about the succubus but always referred to the entity as an incubus.
Since John’s passing, Caroline has been taking care of the inn and dreams of bringing life back to the historic building by hosting community projects, wedding ceremonies, and possibly opening a restaurant. However, the inn’s reputation for paranormal activity has made some visitors hesitant to enter the premises.
Numerous paranormal reports at the Ancient Ram Inn include cold spots, temperature drops, strange lights, slamming doors, ghostly footsteps, moving furniture, knocking, mysterious puddles of water, bad smells, and feelings of unease or sickness. The ghost of a woman, believed to have been murdered in the 1500s, is said to haunt the bar area, where her body might be buried under the floor. A ghost known as Edward, often seen as a tall hooded figure, also haunts the bar area.
In the Witch’s Room, a ghostly greyhound is said to lurk, once trained to kill on its master’s command. Meanwhile, in the Bishop’s Room, a four-legged animal is believed to spook visitors by jumping on them, while a phantom cat brushes against people’s legs. The Ancient Ram Inn’s rich history and numerous paranormal claims make it a fascinating destination for both historians and ghost hunters alike.
This rich history of the Ancient Ram Inn highlights its importance as a historical landmark in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire. With its origins dating back to the 13th century and its transformation over the years, the building serves as a testament to the town’s past and a fascinating site for paranormal investigators and history enthusiasts alike.
‘My Ghost Hunting Movie’ is an authentic exploration of the paranormal realm from the point of view of a skeptic who’s eager to be proven wrong. Steve’s unique take on ghost hunting combined with his personal experiences offers viewers an unconventional journey into the spectral world. You can watch the hour-long film on YouTube and at Higgypop.com from Sunday, May 28.