When I wrote about the gardens at Mottisfont last week I promised I would come back and share some pictures from the house. It really is one of my favourite National Trust Houses I have visited recently. Mainly because you can climb the attic staircase and see the maid’s room.
I have always said if had lived in a big house “back in the olden days” it would have been below stairs. Much more exciting to be a party to all that is going on upstairs without the worry of having to do the right thing in front of the landed gentry all the time.
Mottisfont started its life as an Priory before the Barker Mill family in the nineteenth century were responsible for the facade, building onto the mansion that William Sandys had created. A wealthy banker at the end of the 19th century the house was let to a banker called Daniel Meinertzhagen but include conditions such as electric light and central heating not being installed. Your guess is as good as mine as to why!
When the property was owned by the Russell family in the thirties it played host to Ian Fleming and the Churchills
And a crocodile. Yes, really. This is a pic of a hole in a bathroom door on the attic corridor, that shows a (now fake obviously) crocodile lying in the bath. The crocodile was a gift to the family, shipped from Harrods, and lived in this bath until it got too big, at which point it was shipped to London zoo. Having been up the staircase I would love to know how on earth they got it down again!
The window picture at the very top is of the maid’s room and the pics below are also from the attic
It was in this part of the house that you could see where the walls have covered the original stone work from the priory
During the second world war the house was requisitioned and became a hospital for 80 casualties. The stable block became home to children evacuated from London where newspaper clippings about the war are still attached to the wall.
From reading the guidebook there are some lovely bits of history recounted. I think my favourite might be that Mrs Russell lived at Mottisfont long after she had handed over the running of the House to the National Trust. She was often to be found wandering the grounds of the estate but insisted on walking down the middle of the road. So if you were approaching in your car, well you had to move. She sounds like quite the lady.
I also want to share with you some exciting news about an exhibition being put on this summer at Mottisfont to celebrate 150 years since the birth of Beatrix Potter:
Set in the sunny gallery space at the top of this country mansion, Beatrix Potter: Play and Childhood features a delightful collection of 30 original watercolours and drawings by perhaps the world’s most beloved children’s illustrator and author, alongside a small selection of vintage Beatrix Potter dolls and figurines.
Many of the illustrations on show at Mottisfont are based on landscapes and experiences familiar to Beatrix. For instance, Lucie, the little girl in a white pinafore chatting to hedgehog washerwoman Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, was based on one of the daughters of the local vicar.
Accompanying the show is an extensive Beatrix Potter family trail, inspired by her playful characters and colourful stories. The route takes children on an adventure around the grounds, with activities to complete and puzzles to solve.
On set weekends over the summer holidays, families can enjoy a host of additional Beatrix Potter-themed fun, including storytelling and drop-in sessions with artists. These will run on 30 and 31 July, 13, 14, 27 and 28 August.
Beatrix Potter: Play and Childhood runs from 16 July to 18 September 2016. For more information on Mottisfont visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont, or call 01794 340757.
Weekend activities run on 30 & 31 July, 13, 14, 27 & 28 August. These are free, normal admission charge only.
More Beatrix Potter celebrations at Mottisfont
On 22 July, there’s more Beatrix Potter-themed fun with Quantum Theatre’s production Once Upon a Time there were Four Little Rabbits, which tells the story of the mischievous Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny.
22 July, 4 – 6pm, adults £16, children £8, booking essential on 0344 249 1895.
28 July is Beatrix’s actual birthday. Bring blankets, picnics and birthday buns and join in the celebrations on the lawn, with storytelling and party games. Favourite cuddly toys are invited too.
28 July, 3 – 4.30pm, normal admission charge only.
A truly beautiful building with stunning grounds (and a couple of cafes with the obligatory National Trust cake).