The house at Mottisfont

Armchairs and sofas before a fireplace in the Morning Room inside Mottisfont, Hampshire

The house is open on weekdays only, 11am-4pm (last entry 3.30pm). You’ll have the opportunity to take in the spectacular Whistler Room and a selection of other stylish rooms re-modelled under Maud Russell's influence. Although the gallery remains closed, our permanent collection of 20th-century art will be on display.

Keeping you safe

We've introduced a one-way route through the house and hand sanitising gel will be made available on entry and exit. We are also limiting the number of people who can access the house at any one time. Due to limits on capacity, it may not be possible for everyone to access the house during their visit. 

In line with government guidance for Test and Trace, we'll need to take some details from you before you step inside. This information is stored securely for Test and Trace purposes only, for 21 days after your visit.

To make sure everyone can maintain social distancing, we have set up a new exit route through the Morning Room, via an exterior stairway. Please speak to our house team if this is not accessible for you – we will arrange an alternative safe exit.

In line with government guidance visitors to our house are required to wear a face covering. Please bring one along with you.

Mottisfont's history

Originally founded as an Augustinian priory in 1201, the house has seen a number of transformations over the last 800 years, shaped by its many and varied owners. Now it reflects the life and passions of Mottisfont’s fascinating last owner, society hostess and arts patron Maud Russell.

Maud Russell and her husband Gilbert purchased Mottisfont in 1934. She was the daughter of German immigrants, who settled in England in the late nineteenth century. Lively and beautiful, Maud was greatly drawn to both the work and the company of creative people, and invited many contemporary artists, writers and designers here for weekend retreats.

Modernising Mottisfont

When the Russells first purchased Mottisfont, the buildings were in a state of disrepair. They modernised the house and estate, and it became a place for extravagant house parties held for their literary and artistic friends.

Under Maud's guidance, rooms were reconfigured and redecorated. The overall look was Neo-classical and luxurious, with faux marbling and pastel shades. While much of her furniture and personal possessions are now gone from the house, Mrs Russell's spirit is undeniably present in the look and feel of the house today.

It's a playful house, with lots of secrets to discover. Look out for:

  • Two mosaics by Russian artist Boris Anrep: a small panel above the doorway in the Red Room representing the Holy Trinity, and one on the south elevation of the house, which depicts the figure of an angel bearing a very strong resemblance to Mrs Russell.

  • A ‘secret’ panel in the Yellow Room which reveals a hidden part of the old priory building

The Whistler Room

Just before war broke out in 1939, Maud Russell transformed the original entrance hall into a large saloon. Rex Whistler was commissioned to create a unique backdrop for Mottisfont’s glamorous guests. The results were his spectacular trompe l’oeil murals, light-heartedly reflecting Mottisfont’s medieval origins.

Rex Whistler's detailed, deceptive murals are one of Mottisfont's most fascinating sights
A detail of Rex Whistler's murals in the saloon at Mottisfont, Hampshire
Rex Whistler's detailed, deceptive murals are one of Mottisfont's most fascinating sights

Despite appearances, there are no columns, ledges or moulded plasterwork in this room, the walls of which are so cunningly painted that they appear to have all these gothic decorations. Take time to look closely at these finely detailed paintings and see what you can spot.

This extraordinary room was his last and finest piece before he was killed in active service in France. Tucked high in one wall is a poignant, secret message from the artist, painted just before he left.

Painted trompe l'oeil murals and decorative curtains in the Whistler Room at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Restoring the Whistler Room curtains 

The curtains in our celebrated Whistler Room are part of Maud Russell's original design scheme, created by Rex Whistler. But these original furnishings are deteriorating rapidly. They have been taken down for an intensive programme of repair and restoration, which will take up to five years to complete.