WATCH | The estate Koos Bekker is transforming into English Babylonstoren
South African billionaire Koos Bekker is transforming “one of the most beautiful houses in southern England” into a hotel.
According to reports in the UK‚ Bekker has submitted a planning application which suggests he plans to create an English version of Babylonstoren‚ his farm and hotel in the Cape winelands.
When Hadspen House and its 121 hectares were sold in 2013‚ the buyer was rumoured to be movie star Johnny Depp‚ but it was Bekker who had snapped up the property.
His planning application to South Somerset District Council indicates that the house and estate will be transformed into a hotel with 30 to 35 bedrooms‚ a spa and a visitor centre‚ which will also feature an 80-cover restaurant using fresh produce from the kitchen garden‚ a 70-80 seat café‚ pool‚ farm shop and cider mill.
“The aspiration is to create a high-quality environment which will enable the historic park‚ gardens and buildings to be accessible to the public and to accommodate up to 100‚000 visitors per year‚” the application says‚ according to a report in The Caterer.
“Through these proposals there is a vision to give visitors the most exciting experience of what rural Somerset has to offer‚ including orchards and apple-growing; walks through woodlands‚ parkland and gardens; and exploring the local heritage of cheese and cider production as well as the contemporary culture of good local produce and fine dining.”
The aim is to retain the features‚ materials and character of the existing buildings and to use traditional techniques and local materials to retain the farmstead feel.
The Daily Telegraph said: “There are several encouraging parallels which point towards Bekker replicating the success of Babylonstoren‚ a historic farmhouse set amidst the Cape vineyards surrounding Stellenbosch.”
In 2012‚ Country Life said Hadspen House had gone on the market at a “guide price” of £13-million (about R224-million). The article said: “Described by the agents as ‘one of the most beautiful houses in southern England’‚ Hadspen House ... was built for William Player in the late 1600s and sold in 1785 for £19‚500 to Henry Hobhouse‚ scion of a successful Somerset family of merchants‚ landowners and Liberal politicians.”
Babylonstoren is situated on a Dutch farm dating back to 1692. Naspers chairman Bekker - said by Forbes to be worth $2.6-billion (R31.3-billion) - and his wife‚ Karen Roos‚ sought the help of French architect Patrice Taravella to help transform the garden. It covers 3.5 hectares of formal beds and there are more than 300 species of plants.
In 2016 it bagged five accolades from the Vitis Vinifera Awards for its wine.
The Caterer said Hadspen House hotel would be managed by Andrew Foulkes‚ former manager of the Abbey hotel in Bath and 2017 Cateys Manager of the Year. It is expected to open next April.