Romantic, Impressive and Full of Surprises.
Mottisfont was founded by William Briwere in 1201 as an Augustinian priory. During the reign of King Henry VIII, the priory was dissolved and handed over to Sir William Sandys, who turned it into a country house. Sandys transformed the nave into the main building of the new villa and added wings on both sides. Parts of the original medieval church can still be seen today. The cellarium from the 13th century also still exists today.
In the 18th century the old cloister and the Tudorhof were demolished. This gave the facade of the property a modern appearance. At that time the owners added “Abbey” to the name of the house and not the historically more correct “Priory”.
Maud and Gilbert Russell made Mottisfont their home in the 1930s and turned it into a centre of an artistic and political circle. Writers such as Ben Nicholson and Ian Fleming were guests. Some of her artist friends were commissioned by her to embellish Mottisfont. Rex Whistler created the illusion of Gothic architecture in her salon (now Whistler Room). Boris Anrep (a Russian mosaicist active in Britain) made mosaics inside and outside the house, including an angel with Maud’s face.
Like so many old manor houses in England that could no longer be maintained by their owners, the National Trust took over the Abbey in the 1970s and hired the famous rose breeder Stuart Graham Thomas, who has since built up the largest collection of old roses in the world. Roses over roses as far as the eye can see. In all colours, in all sizes, fragrant and non fragrant varieties. The paths are lined with wide rose beds which mix with other plants and impress with their variety of colours.