A brief history of MottisfontMottisfont Abbey was founded in 1201 and was originally a priory for Augstinian Canons, unlike traditional monks their job was to head out into the local community and preach as well as help those in need. They would also regularly welcome pilgrims as Mottisfont was a key place for those making their way to Winchester - it is said that the forefinger of St John the Baptist was held here!
During the reign of King Henry VIII the priory was disolved and the Canons were forced out and Mottisfont became the property of Lord Sandys, who was Lord Chamberlain to the King. Sandys then transformed the building in to a large and imposing private residence.
The next big change came during the Georgian era when in the 1740's the house was altered and re-modeled in to what you see today. During the time the Barker-Mill family owned Mottisfont it built up a reputation as an excellent hunting estate, complete with it's own pack of Fox Hounds, and some of the best fishing available.
Towards the end of the 19th Century the estate was let to a wealthy banker named Daniel Meinertzhagen and his family. He had ten children and they built vast aviaries for their fantastic collection of Eagles, Owls, Hawks and Ravens. The terms of the lease were very eccentric, for example they were forbidden to install central heating and electric lighting.
In 1934 Mr and Mrs Gilbert Russell purchased Mottisfont as it had been empty for a number of years and was now it a state of disrepair, some might even say derelict. This was no problem to them and they started work on the beautiful old building and soon it had become a stunning private residence once again. The rooms were furnished with late Regency antiques and a collection of art that would shame some galleries.
In 1957 Mrs Russell gave the estate to the National Trust, she continued to live in the house and take an active interest in the running of the estate until 1972 when she moved to North End House, which is one of the houses in the village. In this same year Graham Stuart Thomas started work in the Walled Garden and provided the National Trust with his collection of old fashioned roses. His visionary work and clever planting schemes led to the creation of one of the worlds premier rose gardens.