When the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086, the ancient manor house at Mottisfont belonged to William the Conqueror. The priory was founded by the Austin Cannons in 1201 and had a rich history until it was dissolved by Thomas Cromwell in 1536.
After its dissolution Mottisfont Abbey was converted into a residence, first in a Tudor style then in the 1740s it was remodelled in Georgian style. The building’s fortunes waxed and waned until Gilbert Russell, who was descended from the founder of the priory, and his wife Maud bought the property in 1934. Maud Russell was an important hostess and patron of the arts. You will see Rex Whistler’s Gothic style tromp-l’oeil fantasy decoration in the drawing-room, along with some of his original watercolours. Mrs Russell transferred Mottisfont to the National Trust in 1957 but continued to live there until 1972.
Since the early 19th century the grounds consisted of open lawns enclosed by informally planted stands of trees. When the Russells acquired the estate, they commissioned first Norah Lindsay (1866-1948) and later Geoffrey Jellicoe (1900-1996) to add colour and structure to the garden. A beech circle was planted in the early 1960s. However, it is for its rose garden that Mottisfont is chiefly known today.
In 1971 Mrs Russell gave up using the kitchen garden and within its walls the National Trust’s gardens consultant Graham Stuart Thomas planned and laid out the paths and box edging of the rose garden. Here he planted his beautiful collection of old French roses of the last century. This show of species, hybrids and cultivars has been registered as the NCCPG National Collection of ancestral species and 19th century cultivars.