The history of Mottisfont
Eight centuries of history are buried deep within the walls of today’s grand country house at Mottisfont and in the estate that surrounds it.
Meet our families
In the beginning
Mottisfont began as a priory, so the first ‘family’ here was a religious community of Augustinian canons.
The Augstinian canons were forced to cede the priory in the Tudor era when statesman Sir William Sandys, a favourite of King Henry VIII, was given Mottisfont. Sandys made the existing church nave the base of his imposing new mansion, building additional wings either side.
With Georgian times came the Mill family, who transformed the house, producing the elegant stone façade you see today. Hunting, shooting and fishing became the main activity across the estate.
The end of the nineteenth century saw Mottisfont let to wealthy banker, Daniel Meinertzhagen. His ten children enjoyed family life here to the full, the estate their outdoor playground.
The arrival of Maud and Gilbert Russell in 1934 made Mottisfont the centre of a fashionable artistic and political circle.
When the Russells first bought the house, Mottisfont was ina state of disrepair. They spent the next few years modernising the house and estate. Under Maud's guidance, rooms were reconfigured and redecorated, creating the Neo-classical, luxurious look that still exists today.
History of the Gardens
Mottisfont’s land has been shaped and cultivated since the days of the 13th-century priory. However, it was really the Mill family, Georgian landowners, who laid the framework for today’s garden, with its extensive pleasure grounds, riverside walks and fine trees.
Maud Russell commissioned leading garden designers to plan her garden. The yew octagon, pleached lime walk and parterre date from around 1934. Each element reflects something of our earlier history.
Great garden designers
Lindsay, whose commissions ranged from quiet English manor gardens to royal residencies, designed the box-edged parterre in front of the house. She took her inspiration from a piece of Tudor glass, which no longer exists.
Jellicoe was an architect, town planner, landscape architect and garden designer. Jellicoe planned the pleached lime walk to the north of the house. This formal passage of trees evokes the architecture of the priory’s cloister, demolished long ago.
Graham Stuart Thomas
Choosing Mottisfont, he worked with the team here in 1972 and 1973 to build a garden of old roses underplanted with outstanding herbaceous perennials to bring scent and colour from spring to autumn.