To Sidmouth, my £2.3m fortune: Investment banker stipulates in bequest that Devon resort spend cash on a million flower bulbs

'He told us he was ill and that he had some money he wanted to leave us'

It's certainly generous and definitely unexpected.

The small coastal town of Sidmouth in Devon has been bequeathed an investment banker's entire £2.3million fortune - with the instruction to buy a million flowers.

Keith Owen, 69, was born in nearby Totnes and soon left to settle in Canada. But he often returned to Devon to visit his mother who had retired in Sidmouth.

When he was diagnosed with lung cancer and told he had just eight weeks to live, he decided to leave the Sid Vale Association his entire fortune, including his retirement fund, pension and a £800,000 from properties.

The seafront at Sidmouth, Devon, where a million flowers will be planted thanks to the generosity of Keith Owen. …

The divorced banker with no children had a stipulation for Keith Owen, 69, who left his entire fortune to Sidmouth. (SWNS) his generous gift - that it be spent keeping Sidmouth "beautiful".

He also asked that a million flower bulbs should be planted in Sidmouth - and the town are honouring his request.

Rev Handel Bennett, SVA president and chairman of the Keith Owen Fund, said: "I only met him briefly but he was clearly a very kind man.

"He kept himself to himself but was particularly interested in the association because of the amount of voluntary work we do.

"The first time I met him was when he asked for us to visit him to discuss his will. He told us he was ill and that he had some money he wanted to leave us.

"I thought it would be in the range of a few hundred thousand, so when he told us it was more than a million we were very shocked.

"He loved Sidmouth so much he wanted to leave enough money to ensure it could be preserved."

Flowers are at their best at the Connaught garden in Sidmouth, Devon. (SWNS)

Keith was born in Totnes in Devon and became an RAF pilot, leaving the service in 1976 to start a new life and career in finance in Ottawa, Canada.

He regularly returned to the picturesque town of 15,000 people even after his mother died.

When he was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 he urgently gathered civic leaders to discuss his generous gift. He died that year.

The town, which attracts 100,000 tourists a year, are not allowed to touch the capital but can spend the interest as they like - around £120,000 a year.

Some £400,000 of Keith's money has already been spent on various youth schemes including a new scout hut.

The High Street in Sidmouth, Devon, which will be spruced up by Keith's flowers. (SWNS)

And on October 26 the community will gather together to plant 153,000 flowers, costing £166,000, in flowerbeds, gardens, parks and road sides for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Sidmouth Garden Centre is currently stockpiling the massive number of bulbs needed for the extraordinary feat.

Alan Darrant, chairman of the SVA said: "Lots of children have come forward with great ideas. One young schoolboy suggested we used some of the money to improve the cemetery where his brother was buried.

"We have also had a pond restored and a path improved on the green. All of these ideas are great for the town and thanks to Keith we have the means to put them into practise."

Keith also hoped that the cash could be used to stimulate interest in preserving the countryside and encourage local children to take part in conservation projects.

Speaking in 2007, his only relative, brother Gordon, said: "Keith lived in Canada and had travelled around the world. But he fell in love with Sidmouth.

"Our mother retired there and he used to visit her a lot. He did not have any children or family so he left everything to Sidmouth."

Keith Owen left £2.3 million in his will to Sidmouth, a small British coastal resort. (SWNS)