One thing I absolutely love about England is that no matter where you are, there’s always an old building nearby. On a random Monday afternoon in September, our plan to visit somewhere else didn’t quite work out (I say didn’t quite work out, I mean it was an awful place and we virtually ran out of it). Worried about our day being a write off, we quickly checked what was nearby and headed to Mottisfont, and I’m so glad we did as it makes for an absolutely amazing day out in England.
History of Mottisfont
Mottisfont started as a Priory in 1201, and elements of this structure can still be seen today, especially in The Cellarium. Hundreds of prosperous years as a religious building were followed by devastation from the Black Death and then in 1536, Henry VIII swept in (as with so many other religious buildings I’ve mentioned on this blog) and destroyed it. The havoc that man caused is ridiculous. And all just to start his own Church to set his own rules contrary to Catholicism so that divorce was allowed and he could marry Anne Boleyn!
In the 1500s, the site was developed as a Tudor house, with Queen Elizabeth I even visiting Mottisfont twice. But in 1684 the eighth and last Baron died childless, and Mottisfont was left to his nephew, who renovated the house to the Georgian version you see most clearly today.
Ultimately in the 1930s, the Russell family took over Mottisfont. When they bought the house in 1934 the buildings were in a state of disrepair. Huge changes were made inside under Maud Russell’s guidance to create a luxurious, neo-classical setting for their weekend retreats. Once her husband died, Maud was also known for living her life – she was even rumoured to have had a fling with Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond and even bought him an island in Jamaica which he named Goldeneye. You may have heard of it!
Mottisfont was requisitioned during the war to become a convalescent home for wounded officers, but after the war Maud made it her main home and lived there until 1957, when she gifted it to The National Trust for us to all enjoy.
What to see at Mottisfont
You could easily spend quite a few hours at Mottisfont. Taking in the main house is the starting point, admiring the mix of architecture – from Abbey, Tudor Mansion, Georgian pile and more modern developments.
You can also explore inside the house, seeing the rooms as they would have been in the 1930s when Maud Russell lived there. I particularly liked the library with its bookshelves, as I always seem to.
After touring the house, check out the formal gardens at the back of the house. I visited at a time when they weren’t in full bloom, but they were still absolutely beautiful.
From there, take a stroll along the river which runs through the property – there is a nice round loop along the river and then in to the fields and back towards the house again which takes around 30-45 minutes.
The next stop of the day is then the absolutely incredible walled garden. There is a purely floral garden, full of roses which burst with colour (though we missed the best of them), and then also a vegetable garden which hosts a cafe – a perfect place to sit with a coffee and slice of cake.
To round the day off, it’s then time to head in to Mottisfont village. It’s only a short walk from Mottisfont car park, and is home to a Medieval church, as well as lots of pretty cottages.
Getting to Mottisfont
The nearest major place to Mottisfont is Salisbury, so it’s a perfect spot to tie in with a visit there. It’s also just a 30 minute drive from Southampton, and from Winchester if you are visiting either of those cities. It’s a 2 hour drive from London. There is a large car park at the site with plenty of parking.
Ideally you need a car to get to Mottisfont, but if not the nearest train station is Romsey. To get to Romsey you would need to change at Southampton or another major station. From Romsey you could then get a taxi to the site, which will take about 10 minutes.
Sometimes getting lost and having things not going to plan leads to discovering something amazing. I really enjoyed stumbling upon Mottisfont and if you’re ever in Salisbury or Hampshire, I recommend a visit. As always, thanks for reading, stay safe and happy travelling everyone.