The house at Mottisfont
From 25 November - 2 January, we're celebrating Christmas at Mottisfont. Our house is dressed with statement trees, piles of presents, dramatic flower arrangements and handmade decorations, crafted by talented volunteers. Each room is themed with different colours, and five towering trees take centre stage in the Whistler Room, where the walls are washed with vivid lighting as a grand finale.
A house steeped in history
Discover stories of creativity, conflict, love and loss in a house full of surprises at Mottisfont. 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.
Visit the lower ground floor of the house to find out how and why it developed from a priory into a country home over the years. From here you can step into the vaulted cellarium, the giant ‘larder’ of the 13th-century priory; currently decorated for Christmas.
While much of the original priory is now hidden, this atmospheric space offers a glimpse into the lives of Augustinian canons.
When society hostess and art lover Maud Russell and her banker husband, Gilbert, purchased Mottisfont in 1934, 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 Russell’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.
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 – ask one of our room guides to show you when you visit.
The Derek Hill Collection
Mottisfont also houses a permanent collection of 20th Century art. Hung throughout the show rooms of the house, this inspiring features artists from L.S. Lowry to Barbara Hepworth.
Sometimes called the last of the gentlemen painters, Derek Hill was a talented landscape and portrait artist who was fortunate enough to be able to afford works of painters who had influenced him as well as encourage talent in others.
A frequent visitor here, he honoured his long friendship with the Russells by leaving a substantial collection of 20th-century art to Mottisfont, now on permanent display.