Until Raven Hall (which was formerly known as Peak Hall) was built in 1774, Ravenscar was a scattered hamlet of farm buildings. Staintondale was the main community in the area. However, there was in 1540 a large farm known as Peak house on the site of the 5th-century Roman fort, owned by a Mr John Beswick and his family. Nothing remains of the old fort except the foundations which were rediscovered during the building of Raven Hall. The foundation stone itself is now in Whitby Museum and it is suspected that the rest of the stones from the fort have found their way over the centuries into the walls of several local farms!
Raven Hall was originally built by Captain William Childs of London. A Captain in the King's Regiment of light Dragoons, he first came to Yorkshire with the army. In 1763 Captain Childs became the owner of the Alum Works at Ravenscar and we assume that it is this commercial interest - combined with the breath-taking beauty of the area, which led him to build his family holiday home here.
On his death in 1829 the Hall passed to his daughter Ann Willis. The family became quite wealthy from treating George III and various other loopy Royals throughout Europe including the Queen of Portugal. But this wealth was quickly squandered by Ann's son, the Rev. Dr Richard Willis.
Addicted to both louse-racing and horse racing at Doncaster, the eccentric Reverend was finally reduced to advertising a hypnotic cure for insomnia at a guinea a time! At great expense, the Reverend Dr Willis built the incredible hanging terraced gardens and battlements at Raven Hall by literally blowing them out of the cliff face. Included in this project was a small but useful cave which was a cosy and well-hidden bolt hole for anyone who wished to pass signals out to sea.
It must have been some relief for the upstanding people of Ravenscar, when a Mr William Hammond of London, foreclosed on the mortgage in 1845 and took over the Hall from the debt-ridden Willis's! Raven Hall moved swiftly from the decadence of the Regency into Victorian respectability.
Mr Hammond however, was no absentee landlord. He quickly became a prominent local benefactor. He built the village church, the windmill and during the later part of his life, he became obsessed with the Scarborough to Whitby railway line. As a Director of the building project, it was only natural that a station should be built at Ravenscar - however, he did insist that as the line passed his 300 acres of property, that it should disappear under a tunnel! (This was built at an extra cost of £500!) Sadly, Mr Hammond died in 1885 three months before the line was completed.
After his wife's death in 1890, their four daughters who inherited the estate sold it to the Peak Estate Company for development as a holiday resort. Raven Hall itself was opened as a hotel in 1895 after a massive extension project and in 1897 the village name was changed to Ravenscar, (from the Danish 'Raven Scaur'). The golf links were opened in 1898 by the Earl of Cranbrooke. The Victorian square with its guest houses and tea rooms was also built at this time.
In 1911 the Ravenscar Estate Company was declared bankrupt and the remaining land was sold off at a famous auction in the hotel's Coach House.
Apart from the changes in ownership, little has been recorded about the Hotel since 1911, but it is known to have been used as a billet for the forces, during wartime and then continued as a Hotel to the present day.