A visit to Gilbert Whites House (Oh, and turning 23!)

On St Patricks day i turned 23 - Wow! I've still been known to still say "21" when asked my age (oops!)...so i think i need to own up to this quickly

 My 1920s pop-up Birthday Card, complete with Cairn Terrier and Easter Bunnies! - Perfection.

I think I can admit, i was spoilt this year. Really spoilt. I recieved enough books to build a house with!! There's another 2 levels of them under these...I think we'll need to re-inforce our floorboards to cope with this lot!

And Bruce brought me a gorgeous print i'd been admiring in Tunbridge Wells...Yep, it's guinea pigs. You don't often see nice prints of proud, happy guinea's do you? The Victorians had a lovely manner with their pets...i feel a new collection coming on!

For my birthday we visited Gilbert Whites House in Selborne, which I had never been to before but my Dad is an old-hand, he visited it all the time when he was younger and told me to expect lots of interesting curiosities, which sounded perfect!

Gilbert White (1720 - 1793) was a pioneering Naturalist and Ornithologist who lived and died in Selborne, Hampshire. His book "The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne" composed of his letters to Thomas Pennant - a zoologist of the day. It has been continuously in print since 1789, with nearly 300 editions. I own two different copies of the book myself, and will go into greater detail with a future blog post about this fantastic book!

 Gilbert White's Study - My favourite room in the House.

Gilberts family moved into the Vicarage when he was 7 or 8, and and the time the property would have been a simple "two up, two down", but over the years, the family transformed it into the magnificant house which stands today. A highlight was seeing Gilberts study, complete with un-finished letters, pagemarked books, and of course, a fantastic array of taxidermy!

The museum has the new addition of an exhibition space upstairs for the Oates Collection, which focuses on the lives of two members of the Oates family, who were both pioneers and explorers of the natural world. There is Captain Lawrence Oates (1880-1912) who is best rememberd as the brave Antartic hero, part of Captain Scott's team who attemped to undertake the journey to the south pole, and Frank Oates (1840-1875) who was Lawrences uncle, and who had a passion for the study of wild birds. Both their stories ended sadly, and strangely anough, the day we visited (17th of March) was the same day 100 years ago that Captain Oates bravely walked from the doomed exporers tent with his last words "I am just going outside and may be some time.” - sadly, they never found his body. This thought resonated with me around the whole exhibition which was brilliantly curated for such a small space. Little additions such as faux-glass plate negatives with the fabulous work of Herbet Ponting to place over a light box really made the exhibit special, and I would highly recommend a visit to the whole house!

 Collection of taxidermy birds from the South Pole...mind that Albatross!

As we were in a Naturalist's house, it would have been rude to not appreciate the garden! It has been restored to resemble how it was in White's day, with features and plants of the eighteenth century. A recent addition is this "mound" with a seat made from an old port barrel, a very nice place to sit and contemplate i'm sure! As i was the Birthday girl, I had to sit for the picture. No laughing!

Also noticed this VERY low-growing mistletoe which is quite unusual! See how its actually grown into the tree? A good find by my Grandad - always on the look-out! I love gardens at this time of year...the signs of spring are just starting to appear, but you can still appreciate the more graphic elements of the trees and hedges.

And of course it would have been rude to ignore the Tea Parlor...so birthday cream tea it was! The staff very kindly made us lunch despite arriving after the cut-off point, so a big thank you to them!

If you are visiting Hampshire, i would thoroughly recommend a visit to the Whites House and Oates collection, it'll make you see the little beautiful things around you that little bit clearer!

Have you read "The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne"? Do you have another favourite pioneer of the natural world? I would love to hear from you, as i mentioned, expect another Gilbert White post in the near future!

Thanks for reading! And thank you Bruce for the lovely pictures!


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