The freehold property, caves and business were marketed by Bettesworths Chartered Surveyors at a guide price of £2 – £2.5m. The sale was launched in mid-May and after immediate significant interest from around the world, completed in early August.
The prehistoric caves, which have been open to the public since the 19th century, have been owned by the same family since 1903, when the current owner’s great-grandfather acquired the site.
The caves are an essential part of the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark, which celebrates the geological heritage of the area. Kents Cavern, one of the most important Stone Age sites in Europe, was formed over 2.5 million years ago. Kents Cavern is made up of an extensive system of caves once occupied by prehistoric humans and Ice Age animals. Since the discovery of the caves over 80,000 stone age artifacts have been found including a prehistoric upper jawbone fragment, believed to be the oldest anatomically modern human fossil yet discovered in north western Europe.
Kents Cavern is an award-winning visitor attraction offering tours of the caves, a shop, restaurant/café, visitor centre and holiday let in the heart of Torquay, Devon; a highly profitable year-round business in a beautiful coastal location. With daytime and evening non weather dependent trading, the business also offers events such as weddings, cinema, Santa’s grotto, underground theatre, yoga, corporate receptions and private hire. The sale of Kents Cavern presented a unique opportunity to own a piece of history in a stunning coastal location. The caves have attracted in excess of 10 million visitors from all over the world, and the sale offers the chance to invest in the heritage and culture of the area.
The business was offered to the market with a strong financial performance record, a dedicated and experienced team of staff, and an established reputation for excellence in customer service. The sale included the underground caverns, woodland trail, visitor centre and restaurant/cafe, car park, surrounding land, and a recently totally refurbished luxury three-bedroom holiday let or owner’s accommodation.
The announcement of the availability of Kents Cavern generated a huge wave of publicity and significant interest from investors, entrepreneurs, operators, the cultural heritage sector and businesses in the tourism industry, both locally, regionally and internationally. A sale was agreed within 2 weeks of the launch of the marketing.
The sale was concluded quickly with Dominic Hollingsworth and his team at Wollens in Torquay acting for the seller and Stuart Hutson at Temple Bright acting for the purchaser.
Kents Cavern has been purchased by The Tudor Hotel Collection Ltd. The company is already well established in the West Country, having developed the award winning Bodmin Jail Visitor Attraction and Hotel in Cornwall. The group are already represented in Torbay, having purchased the Redcliff Hotel in Paignton.
Rob Cox, CEO of Tudor Hotels commented “Kents Cavern is a wonderful and unique attraction and we are very excited to continue the amazing work of Nick & Sheena and their family. It’s wonderful to be actively engaged in bringing the rich history of England to people from all over the world. Adding Kents Cavern to our collection alongside the Bodmin Jail Museum, The Bodmin Jail Hotel and The Redcliffe Hotel is a proud moment for us and underpins our commitment to collating the finest collection of Historic Hotels and Visitor attractions.”
The current owners of Kents Cavern, Nick & Sheena Powe, have expressed their gratitude to their loyal customers and staff for their support over the years. They are proud of the legacy that their family has created and believe that the new owner will be able to continue to provide visitors with a unique and memorable experience and take the business to new heights.
Nick Powe commented, “The family are delighted to have a found an experienced operator to continue caring for the caves, continuing my family’s legacy established over the last 120 years.
The new owners will be bringing the Stone Age heritage alive, offering a better visitor-experience, exactly what Kents Cavern needs and what I couldn’t do. I have no doubt the caves, managed by the same excellent team, will go from strength to strength.
For me, this investment is yet another demonstration that the English Riviera is well on track to become one of the best visitor destinations in Britain, and Kents Cavern, Britain’s Oldest Home, will be playing a significant part in that. For that I am very proud and pleased to have passed the caves on to this new owner.”
Matt Bettesworth, Director of Bettesworths and agent for the sale, comments “we were delighted to be instructed to sell this totally unique business and were blown away by the response to our marketing.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish Nick and Sheena Powe all the very best for the future and hope they take a well-earned rest after all their hard work and dedication at Kents Cavern.
We would also like to congratulate Tudor Hotels and wish them every success with the caves. Knowing their track record, their ownership will undoubtably benefit Kents Cavern and we look forward to hearing their plans for the attraction in due course.”
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