Narnia, of course.
To get to Narnia, you’d need a vintage wardrobe in a 1940’s country home. The sort to which, four children might be evacuated. An English country home like Mottisfont in Hampshire.
Mottisfont has evolved through time and ownership. The old stones have seen life as a priory, Tudor palace and a Georgian country estate.
By the 1930’s, the house had been sold to Gilbert and Maud Russell. Under the guidance of Maud- fashionable, creative, well respected for her knowledge of the arts- the house we see today was created. A luxurious, classical home.
Mottisfont and the surrounding gardens are beautiful at any time of year, but particularly when dressed for Christmas. This year is extra special as Mottisfont is hosting a magical reimagining of the C.S Lewis classic, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Mottisfont At Christmas
You can’t just go haring off into Narnia. There’s a little scene setting to be done first.
As you enter the house, you fall into a 1940’s Christmas and into the story of Edmund, Lucy, Susan and Peter. For this season only, Mottisfont has been transformed into the country home of Professor Digory Kirke, where the children found themselves when evacuated from the bombs of The Blitz.
Going through the doors to begin the festive trail, it’s impossible not to feel a little thrill. A beautiful room, a fire burning in the grate, a traditionally dressed tree. A beautiful beginning, a welcome full of warmth and sparkle.
The house is stunning. Every aspect designed to be pleasing to the eye, but it still homely and warm, especially at Christmas. First the bedrooms, starting with The Boys Room. Full of vintage treasures but with a rough and tumble feel. Traditional train sets laid out on the floor and aircraft overhead.
Even the corridor leading off from the bedrooms, simple and understated compared to the rest of the house, is gorgeous. Lots of symmetry, traditional garlands and chandeliers overhead.
The next bedroom, in contrast, a thing of absolute beauty. Feminine and luxurious, a four-poster bed taking pride of place. A vintage rocking horse in front of the most beautifully decorated fireplace I have ever seen. Christmas decor goals.
I told Mr THL this was the life to which I’d like to become accustomed, but his snort in reply wasn’t very encouraging. A girl can dream, hey?
Stepping into Narnia
What do you need to step into Narnia? A wardrobe. One big enough to step into and emerge into a land of winter and magic. After a little bit of exploring the house, you’ll come across such a wardrobe. Just like Lucy in The Lion. The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Each room beyond the wardrobe is lavishly decorated, inspired by the kingdom of the White Witch. There are frosted trees, a sleigh, twinkling lights. A table laden with a forest and fairytale themed buffet. One side warm and woodland inspired, the other from the Land of Perpetual Winter.
The Narnia inspired trail ends with an explosion of festive spirit. In the final room, Aslan the lion presides over the crowning of the new kings and queens of Narnia.
He stands alongside a 16ft Christmas tree adorned with decorations in purple, red and gold. Piles of gifts, beautifully wrapped, are stacked around the bottom of the tree.
An impressive ending to an impressive and feel-good family experience.
As well as the whimsical and lavish Narnia inspired dressing of the house, Mottisfont is hosting an exhibition showing 16 water colour illustrations of the story by Pauline Baynes.
Each illustration brings to life a scene from the story. I read that C.S Lewis and Baynes only met a handful of times and that he wasn’t the greatest fan of her work, but I like the illustrations. I think she captured beautifully the malevolence of the Witch, the bustling charm of Mr and Mrs Beaver and – my favourite- an inquisitive Lucy climbing into the wardrobe.
The gardens at Mottisfont are always worth a wander, and they too have been dusted with some Narnia inspired magic. There are floral arrangements featuring tiny wardrobes and life size wardrobes that allow you to step into a scene from the story. No pictures of the latter- we visited on opening day and couldn’t get near.
Elsewhere in the grounds and gardens, there is much that might not be magical but that is definitely worth exploring. Wander the Kitchen Garden and the Rose Garden, view the house in all its glory from the formal lawns, find the last horse in the old stables and seek out the concealed entrance to the old icehouse.
The Practical Stuff
Mottisfont House & Gardens can be found near Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 0LP.
Standard adult entry £16, child £8. Family tickets available, free entry for National Trust members.
Full details on the Mottisfont website.