Commercial property

Investors ring the changes at England's oldest hotel

Written by Peter Davison on .

The Old Bell in Malmesbury


England's oldest hotel has changed hands, with Texan investors Kim and Whit Hanks buying the Old Bell in Malmesbury.

The couple have also agreed to buy the neighbouring Abbey House Gardens, once home to the Naked Gardeners.

The 34-bedroom Grade I listed hotel has served the town for 800 years.

The Hanks – founders of wedding and special events business Whim Hospitality, Camp Lucy, and Tillie’s Restaurant in Dripping Springs – are frequent visitors to the market town.

It is the ancestral home of Whit's family, and industrialist, Walter Hanks, operated a mill below The Old Bell Hotel on the River Avon in the late 1100s.

“Whit and I are so excited and fortunate to have the opportunity to bring our Whim Hospitality brand of welcoming hospitality to both these outstanding historic properties in the wonderful town of Malmesbury, home of our Hanks family ancestors," said Kim.

"We are looking forward to meeting our guests, members of the community, local artisans, businesses and entrepreneurs as we create a refresh and restyle programme for The Old Bell Hotel to be an inclusive, engaging destination in Malmesbury for launch in early 2022."

The deal was completed off a guide price of £3.75 million by property agents Knight Frank.

Matthew Smith, partner in the hotels team at Knight Frank, said: “Purported to be England’s oldest hotel it is no surprise The Old Bell Hotel attracted global interest.

"We are delighted for Whit and Kim Hanks of Whim Hospitality as they embark on their first UK hotel acquisition, with exciting times ahead as they have large-scale plans to reposition the business, and we are confident this will be a huge success under their stewardship.

"Given the strength of the staycation market, which is continuing to power the hotel market in 2021, interest in these types of distinctive assets remains high from a range of international and domestic investors.”

Legal, commercial and strategic advice on both acquisitions was provided by John Davies, corporate partner at Thrings.

Alex Pinhey, a partner in the firm’s real estate team, handled the property aspects of the deals, with associate Carey Willis Fleming advising on employment law and consultant Chris Elias working alongside John Davies on banking matters.

John added: “It has been an absolute privilege to play a small part in this story.

"When I first met Kim and Whit I was bowled over by their passion and their integrity.

"Their love of the town and the surrounding area was obvious, but the ancestral connection added an extra layer of magic.

“It was a pleasure working with Kim and Whit and their team, and on behalf of Thrings I would like to wish them every success with The Old Bell Hotel and Abbey House Gardens as both celebrated establishments enter new phases in their rich history.”