Maud Russell's war years revealed at Mottisfont

A typewriter on a desk at Mottisfont, Hampshire

'A Constant Heart: the War Diaries of Maud Russell 1938 – 1945' have been published for the first time, edited by Maud’s granddaughter, Emily. Inspired by these diary entries from Mottisfont’s last owner, we’re telling new, wartime stories around Mottisfont.

Our house is open every day from 11am.

Film, audio and other installations reveal some of Maud’s intimate reflections as you walk through our show rooms. You’ll get a snapshot of what life was like on the estate during the Second World War.

This interpretation will be in place until spring 2018, when we’ll be refreshing it with other stories from the Russell family.

A Constant Heart: the War Diaries of Maud Russell 1938 – 1945 have been published by The Dovecote Press. You'll be able to pick up a copy in our shop.

Maud's experiences

Maud Russell was the daughter of German immigrants, who settled in England in the late nineteenth century. She and her husband Gilbert purchased Mottisfont in 1934. They used it mainly as a weekend retreat, and invited many contemporary artists, writers and designers here.

Maud Russell, Mottisfont's last owner
A black and white photograph of Maud Russell, Mottisfont's last owner

Maud was an avid diarist, writing for forty years. Her diaries from 1938 – 1945 explore the tumultous events of the Second World War, but also reflect a changing, sometimes difficult period in her personal life. 

Maud endured the loss of her husband due to ill health in 1942. Afterwards, she divided her time between London, were she worked, and the Mottisfont estate.

" I arrived here very exhausted after the strain of bad nights. But Mottisfont was looking so pretty and the evening was so lovely, calm and composed that in half an hour I felt refreshed and that beauty is not all dead."
- Maud Russell, Friday 23 June, 1944

On the recommendation of close friend Ian Fleming, Maud found employment at The Admiralty. She worked on propaganda activities from 1943 - 1945. We’ve re-imagined her London office at Mottisfont, exploring her thoughts on the challenges and rewards of this secret work.

We’re also telling the story of her struggle to relocate Jewish family members to the safety of England, as well as her work and involvement in the local community. 

Mottisfont in wartime

During the Second World War, Mottisfont was requisitioned as a temporary hospital for injured soldiers. Much of the furniture was removed or stacked in the Whistler Room and replaced by beds. The Long Gallery became a ward: up to 80 patients were stationed here at any one time.

During the war, Mottisfont was requisitioned as a hospital
An old photograph of soldiers and nurses standing outside Mottisfont, Hampshire

Evacuees from London also moved here. You’ll learn about their experiences in the stable block, where they were given a home.

Italian Prisoners of War were held nearby, and were taken out for exercises in local Spearywell Woods.