Peter Herbert, the former owner of Gravetye Manor, has died aged 87.
He bought Gravetye in 1958 and turned it into one of the UK's most celebrated country house hotels.
He was responsible for restoring the English natural garden first established by former owner and renowned gardener William Robinson, as well as introducing an extensive kitchen garden.
Peter Herbert and his wife Sue retired from running Gratetye, which was built by Richard Infield in 1598, in 2004. They sold it to Andrew Russell and chef Mark Raffan, who ran the business until it entered administration in 2010. It is now owned by fund manager Jeremy Hosking, although Peter Herbert remained as a director until May 2013, and continued to live in a house on the edge of the estate.
Andrew Thomason, managing director of Gravetye Manor, said: "All of us at Gravetye are terribly sad at the passing of Peter Herbert. Those us who knew him are grateful for the legacy of Gravetye that flourishes today, and I will personally miss our afternoon tea chats when I kept him up to speed on Gravetye's successes, which he was so thrilled to hear.
"Peter was instrumental in creating the country house hotel model that we know today, fine building, beautiful garden, excellent cuisine and service where the cornerstones and Gravetye today is testament to the past 55 years since Peter opened the doors in 1958."
Kit Chapman, proprietor of the Castle at Taunton said: "With Francis Coulson and Brian Sack, Peter was one of the great pioneers of the English Country House Hotel. Above all, he set the standard and the style which was emulated by all those who followed. Sadly, this era of passionately individual and personalized hotelkeeping is practically extinct in an industry which has become voraciously corporatized and branded. Peter Herbert was a one-off, a man who led the way to Britain's post-war revival in the then-novel notion that English hotels should offer world-class hospitality!"
Details of the funeral arrangements for Herbert have not yet been made public by his family.