The house at Mottisfont

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

Discover stories of creativity, conflict, love and loss in a house full of surprises. 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.

Visit the lower ground floor of the house to find out how and why Mottisfont 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.

While much of the original priory is now hidden, this atmospheric space offers a glimpse into the lives of Augustinian canons.

The Cellarium offers a glimpse of Mottisfont's priory past
The Cellarium at Mottisfont, Hampshire
The Cellarium offers a glimpse of Mottisfont's priory past

Maud Russell's influence

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.

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

This year, we're telling the story of Maud's youngest son, Raymond.

An old photograph of Raymond Russell at the harpsichord

Raymond Russell's story at Mottisfont 

This year, we're exploring the life of Raymond Russell, youngest son of Maud and Gilbert, through installations around the house. Raymond was a talented musician, with a keen interest in collecting; among other curious objects, he eventually amassed an important collection of early keyboard instruments.

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 – ask one of our room guides to show you when you visit.

The Derek Hill Collection

Mottisfont houses a permanent collection of 20th-century art. Hung throughout the show rooms of the house, this inspiring collection features artists from L.S. Lowry to Barbara Hepworth.

Sometimes called the last of the gentlemen painters, Hampshire-born Derek Hill was a talented landscape and portrait artist. He was rich enough to buy the works of painters who had influenced him, and sociable and thoughtful enough to encourage talent in others.

Maud Russell commissioned works from him, and he was a frequent visitor here. It is through his generosity and the agency of The Art Fund that the National Trust is able to display pictures by him and by other artists whose works he collected at Mottisfont.

Gibraltar From Behind Marbella by Derek Hill
Gibraltar From Behind Marbella by Derek Hill
Gibraltar From Behind Marbella by Derek Hill