A Texan couple have been announced as the new owners of what is thought to be England's oldest hotel, the Old Bell in Malmesbury.

Kim and Whit Hanks have also agreed to buy the neighbouring Abbey House Gardens, once home to the Naked Gardeners and famed for its clothes optional days.

The founders of Whim Hospitality, Camp Lucy and Tillie’s Restaurant in Dripping Springs, Texas say they are "exceptionally thrilled" to take on the sites.

They are regular visitors to the town which has been 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 1100’s.

Kim and Whit have stressed that The Old Bell Hotel will continue to serve the community as it has for the past 800 years.

They have also agreed to purchase neighbouring Abbey House and Gardens later in 2021. The current owners will operate the 2021 season as usual.   

While details of their proposals for the Grade I listed property will not be released until after the purchase is complete, they say they are working hard to create a plan that the community will embrace.

“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."

They plan to reopen the hotel on May 17.

Kim and Whit also plan to keep the Abbey Gardens open to the public. 

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The Abbey House and GardensThe Abbey House and Gardens  At the Old Bell Hotel, the couple say they have proposed a programme of modest ground floor refurbishments to bring new ambience to the dining room and bar lounges, delicious new food menus and inviting outdoor drinks and dining areas.

Kim and Whit, along with both their US and Old Bell Hotel teams, will engage with the local community, artisans, businesses and entrepreneurs.

They plan to create  programme of activities to be launched at the hotel in early 2022, aiming to recreate The Old Bell Hotel as a welcoming, active hub of Malmesbury life.

The Old Bell

The Old Bell Hotel is rumoured to be England’s oldest hotel, and sits next to Malmesbury Abbey.

It was built on the ruins of Malmesbury Castle, which was built by Bishop Roger of Salisbury for King Henry I.

Sir John Danvers, MP for Malmesbury, briefly became the owner of The Old Bell Hotel in the 1640s.

Originally known as 'The Castle House' it was officially named the Old Bell Hotel in 1798.

The hotel remained despite two world wars, and has been serving locals and tourists alike for generations.