Discover the The Old Bell in Malmesbury
Our owners Kim and Whit Hanks, founders of Whim Hospitality, Camp Lucy and Tillie’s Restaurant in Dripping Springs, Texas purchased the hotel on 31 March 2021. Prior to this, Kim and Whit were regular visitors to Malmesbury, their Hanks family ancestral home since before 1500. In fact, 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 wish for The Old Bell Hotel to continue to serve the community as it has for the past 800 years. From opening, they set out on a programme of refurbishments to bring interior design and ambience to the dining room, bar, and lounges, with delicious new food and drink menus. Inviting outdoor areas and luxury to the unique rooms are swiftly following.The local community and leisure guests have embraced this improved ambience and the Abbey Row Restaurant, cocktail bar, high design lounges and delicious food and drinks. Ongoing engagement with the community and its independent shops, artisans, businesses, and entrepreneurs is enabling an exciting programme of guest experiences and activities to begin from early 2022, firmly putting The Old Bell Hotel on the map as a welcoming, active hub of Malmesbury life. Kim and Whit also purchased neighbouring Grade I listed Abbey House & Gardens, Malmesbury on 1 November 2021. Details of their proposals for Abbey House will be announced over time as they work alongside bodies such as Historic England to retain the property’s history and integrity. Kim and Whit will be active owners of both properties and continue to divide their time between Malmesbury and Dripping Springs.
After the purchase of The Old Bell Hotel, a surprising discovery was made when title deeds surfaced revealing that member of the Hanks family - and Whit’s distant relatives, owned part of the Hotel over 150 years earlier. Mark Pleydell Hanks was also recorded as being resident at Abbey House in the 1841 census. The Hanks family are most certainly coming home! Kim and Whit were delighted when they learnt of the discoveries.
Kim said, “We didn’t know that the Hanks family used to own part of the hotel and lived here. It is an amazing coincidence. 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.” Whit commented, “I have a grandson in America whose name is Henry Hanks and I love the fact that his distant English relative, with the same name, had his home here at the Bell all those years ago.”
A Hotel Steeped in History
In 1220, Abbot Loring erected a hostelry for visiting dignitaries to Malmesbury Abbey, then an important and powerful seat of learning. The Old Bell Hotel, nowadays a mix of architecture -mainly Edwardian, has welcomed guests continuously since then, earning itself the accolade of ‘Oldest hotel in England’. There are traces of every century throughout the hotel, including a hooded stone fireplace in the Bar which dates from 1220.
Prior to this, in the late seventh century, the site of Malmesbury Abbey was chosen by Maildubh, an Irish monk who established a hermitage, teaching local children. Toward the end of his life, the area was conquered by the Saxons. Malmesbury Abbey was founded as a Benedictine Monastery around 676 by the scholar-poet Aldhem, a nephew of King Ine of Wessex. The town of Malmesbury grew round the expanding Abbey and under Alfred the Great was made a burh, with an assessment of 12 hides. In AD 941, the first King of England, Athelstan was buried in the Abbey. Æthelstan had died in Gloucester in October 939. The choice of Malmesbury over the New Minster in Winchester indicated that the King remained an outsider to the West Saxon court. A mint was founded at the Abbey around this time and by the 11th century Malmesbury Abbey contained the second largest library in Europe and was considered one of the leading European seats of learning
Malmesbury Abbey was the site of an early attempt at human flight when, during the early 11th century, the monk Eilmer attached wings to his body and flew from a tower. Eilmer flew over 200 yards before landing, breaking both legs. He later remarked that the only reason he did not fly further was the lack of a tail on his glider. There are many other remarkable people and points of historical note which can be seen in The Athelstan Museum just a short walk from the hotel www.athelstanmuseum.org.uk
Malmesbury itself is a historic, vibrant, and charming market town with much to discover! A visit to the stunning 12th Century Abbey next door to the hotel is a must, along with a visit to view the Turner watercolour of Malmesbury Abbey displayed in the Athelstan Museum. Malmesbury is home to many music, history and arts event & festivals listed on www.discovermalmesbury.life or in the Tourist Information Centre. The charming High Street has many unique, independent shops to browse and walks along the beautiful River Avon are a joy. With the new Explore Malmesbury App, you can enjoy discovering Malmesbury through the ages on your mobile. In fact, we think you may never want to leave…
About Our Owners
As CEO of Whim Hospitality, Kim has grown her business from a small rental company in Dripping Springs, Texas to one of the largest and fastest growing female-led businesses in the US. The diverse and ever-growing range of services has put the business on the Austin Business Journal’s Fast 50 and the Inc. 5000 list for four-consecutive years. Under Kim’s leadership, Whim Hospitality has won local and national awards for their quality of service for rentals, florals, catering, and event management. In addition to being named one of the top women business leaders in Central Texas by the Austin Business Journal, Kim was honoured with one of their Best CEO Awards in 2017. She also serves on several Austin-area tourist-industry organizations and non-profits
Whit founded a successful antiques business, specialising in architectural and international antiques in the mid-1980s while also working as real estate developer in the Central Texas region. He began acquiring property in the Dripping Springs area in 1985, started developing Camp Lucy in 2008, and co-founded Whim Hospitality with Kim in 2012. Whit’s sharp eye for beautiful heritage pieces has helped create the unique setting of the Camp Lucy resort and established Whim Hospitality as one of the premier event services providers in the US. In addition to his responsibilities at Whim and Camp Lucy, Whit serves as the co-founder and Chairman of Pioneer Bank and has served on the Historic Preservation Commission and Economic Development Committee for the City of Dripping Springs.
Whit and Kim’s Descendants - About The Malmesbury Hanks Family
The Hanks family was very prominent in nineteenth century Malmesbury. One of the most distinguished members was Henry Garlick Hanks who served as the Alderman, or Mayor, on several occasions. He was a talented silversmith and clockmaker and one of his clocks is on display in Malmesbury’s Athelstan Museum. It was Henry and his wife Sarah, who lived in The Old Bell Hotel, where title deeds show the Hanks family bought the leasehold in 1865.
About Whim Hospitality, Camp Lucy, and Tillie’s Restaurant
Whim Hospitality offers highly personalised events and weddings where clients’ dreams are turned into reality and company culture is defined by Kim, Whit, and the Whim family team. Whim’s family of services includes Catering, Event Rentals, Tents, Florals and Venue Management all designed to deliver customised, professional experiences clients love.
Camp Lucy is a breathtaking hidden treasure nestled on an idyllic Hill Country Ranch in Dripping Springs, the ultimate luxury getaway at the start of the Texas Wine Trail. This premier wedding venue in Central Texas includes luxury accommodations, world-class services, and gorgeous venues.
With Tillie’s, Kim realised her vision of creating a space that evokes emotion, using food as an inspiration for friends and family coming together. At the Camp Lucy family property where it’s located, Tillie’s menu takes what’s familiar and infuses it with an array of innovative international flavours, creating a new set of rules for cuisine.
Steeped in history and charm, the vibrant & treasured market town of Malmesbury is a joy to explore.
Explore our boutique home from home in all its quirky splendour. There's always something new to see!