Mottisfont derives its name from a spring:

Fertile land and a plentiful water supply attracted the first settlers. The site’s name comes from a spring (“font”) that is still producing water in the grounds. It was the font around which the local community held its moots or meetings. An Augustinian priory was founded here in 1201 by William Briwere, a businessman, administrator and courtier to four Plantagenet kings who chose to make a public demonstration of his wealth and piety. The canons welcomed pilgrims en route to Winchester, who came to worship Mottisfont’s relic, said to be the finger of St John the Baptist.

Struck by the Black Death, the initially prosperous priory suffered from the mid-14th century onwards. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII, the priory was dissolved and the king gave Mottisfont to a favoured statesman, Sir William Sandys, who turned it into a country home, but rather unusually, chose not to demolish the existing priory. Sandys instead turned the church nave into the main body of the new mansion, building additional wings on either side. Sections of the original medieval church may still be seen, with the later additions built around them. The 13th-century cellarium also remains present today.

In the 18th century, the old monastic cloisters and Tudor courtyard were demolished by the Mill family, creating the modern appearance of the estate’s facade. It was at this time that the owners added “Abbey” to the name of the house rather than the more historically correct “Priory”. The National Trust speculates that the name was considered to be more romantic.[3] Then, under Sir John Barker Mill, in the early 19th century, the estate became a centre for hunting, shooting and fishing, and a new stable block was built.[3]

The last decades of the 19th century saw Mottisfont let to wealthy banker Daniel Meinertzhagen under eccentric terms that forbade the installation of electric light or central heating. The ten Meinertzhagen children included Daniel and Richard, who built aviaries for their collection of eagles, hawks, owls and ravens. Richard wrote detailed diaries about his childhood and growing interest in the natural world.[4]

Angel Mosaic by Boris Anrep
The arrival of Maud and Gilbert Russell in 1934 made Mottisfont the centre of a fashionable artistic and political circle. Maud was a wealthy patron of the arts, and she created a substantial country house where she entertained artists and writers including Ben Nicholson and Ian Fleming. She commissioned some of her artist and designer friends to embellish Mottisfont, always with an eye on its history, which fascinated her. Rex Whistler created the illusion of Gothic architecture in her salon (now known as the Whistler Room), a piece of trompe-l’œil painting that recalls the medieval architecture of the priory. Boris Anrep contributed mosaics both inside and outside the house, including one of an angel featuring Maud’s face – the couple had a long love affair.[citation needed]

During World War II, Mottisfont was commandered as a hospital with 80 beds.[4]

Maud Russell gifted the house and grounds to the National Trust in 1957, although continuing to live there until 1972.[5] One of the artists who had visited regularly was Derek Hill, a society portrait painter who had a private passion for landscape painting, and who collected work by his contemporaries. He donated a substantial collection of early 20th-century art to the National Trust to be shown at Mottisfont, in memory of his long friendship with Maud Russell. Today, these works are joined by a changing programme of temporary exhibitions of 20th-century and contemporary art.











18 Comments CherryPie on May 29th 2019

18 Responses to “Mottisfont”

  1. Ginnie says:

    It’s not the same as Downton Abbey but they were both used as “hospitals” during the war. That says a lot, Cherry!

    • CherryPie says:

      Many of the English Country Mansions were used as ‘hospitals’ during the war. It adds to the fascinating history of these places.

  2. Astrid says:

    What an amazing estate this is, Cherry and such a ridge history. Those gardens are a joy to walk though is my guess.

  3. shabana says:

    water has been so compelling for life and this beautiful place display this fact amazingly

    what a striking beauty indeed ,cherishing the soul with soulful sights and absorbing spring

    very interesting history of place and about amazing people who ruled here
    it is always impressive how a ruler ‘grace reflects in his reign

  4. “… the local community held their ‘moots’ or meetings…”

    Ha… this actually reminded me of the Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
    Suffolk is actually a very beautiful county that is often underrated.

  5. I loved reading the history of the house – Mottisfont is a place I would love to visit so it is wonderful to see your lovely photos. You do have some super weekends away :)

  6. ....peter says:

    what a grand collection of pictures of the gardens and the river that runs out of the spring that will flow forever Cherie….peter:)

  7. The Yum List says:

    Green ground, fresh air and blue skies – who needs anything more?

  8. Ayush says:

    what a lovely collection of photos. the gardens are obviously well maintained and the results are evident. i like the head on view in your first shot too.