Thrings handles sale of England’s oldest hotel

Lawyers from Thrings have advised on the acquisition of England’s oldest purpose-built hotel.

The Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury, which has served the community since 1220, has been acquired by Texan hospitality entrepreneurs Kim and Whit Hanks for an undisclosed sum.

Kim and Whit Hanks, founders of wedding and special events business Whim Hospitality - one of the largest and fastest growing female-led businesses in the US - will be active owners of The Old Bell Hotel despite current international travel restrictions.

The new owners plan to reopen the hotel on 17 May following modest refurbishments and the introduction of new menus.

The Hanks have also agreed to purchase neighbouring Abbey House Gardens, a country house garden covering five acres, later in 2021.

Under the new ownership the stunning gardens, whose 10,000 different plants and 180 unique pieces of art from Cotswold Sculptors Association attract visitors from around the world, will continue to be open to the public.

Kim and Whit Hanks are regular visitors to Malmesbury, the Hanks family ancestral home since before 1500. Pioneering Malmesbury industrialist, Walter Hanks, operated a mill below The Old Bell Hotel on the River Avon in the late 1100s. 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.

Kim Hanks said: “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.

“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.”

“Given the complexity and confidentiality of the project - both properties feature Grade I listed buildings and the owners have been personally involved for many years - there were innumerable hurdles to overcome. At every stage, Thrings really honoured our trust in them. We have developed a personal friendship with John and his team, and they have become something of ‘boots on the ground’ for us.”

John Davies 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.”