Although Rhinefield House has existed in its present form since the 1880s there have been dwellings on the site since the New Forest was first proclaimed by William the Conqueror in about 1097.
To him the forest represented an area, conveniently close to his capital of Winchester, in which he could pursue his favourite sport of hunting.
The use of the forest as an exclusive hunting ground waned during the reign of Charles II and the office of Keeper of the Walk became a grace and favour appointment.
In 1877, many of the Crown Lands were “privatised” and Rhinefield passed to the Walker family. In 1885 the only daughter of the family became engaged to a Lieutenant Munro RN and her father’s engagement present was £250,000 with which to build a family home at Rhinefield.
After their marriage in 1887 the couple adopted the name Walker-Munro and supervised the construction of an impressive country seat comprising the Great House, a Hunting Lodge, stables, gardener’s bothy (small hut or cottage) and a Gate Lodge.
The Great House, designed by architects Romaine-Walker and Tanner of London, incorporates a mixture of styles, reflecting the personal tastes which the Walker-Munros acquired in their travels. Thus Tudor combines with Gothic architecture, while inside the Grand Hall has many features of Westminster Hall and the master’s smoking room reproduces the splendour of the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
The house was left to their only son Major Ian Walker-Munro who emigrated to Kenya. Rhinefield remained in the possession of his family until death duties forced his widow to dispose of it.
There followed a period of uncertainty for Rhinefield, during which several schemes for conversion to flats or a hotel foundered, and the one relatively successful venture was a private school which occupied the house for ten years. In 1982 ownership passed to the Nicholas Hotels, whose plan to develop Rhinefield into a hotel with conference facilities and several luxury apartments, to be leased on a timeshare basis, was successful.
In 1999 Hand Picked Hotels purchased Rhinefield House and, with the completion of a planned programme of refurbishment and modification, the twin aims of restoring Rhinefield House to a condition worthy of its magnificent New Forest setting, while providing unrivalled facilities for business and pleasure in superior surroundings has been completed.