Gilbert White House and the Oates Collection

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Things to do


Date of travel

September, 2016

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Travelled with

Adult family

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Gilbert White lived in Selbourne for 50 years, while he was the curate at the Church of St Mary the Virgin. The house now houses a collection about his life and work.

The visit starts in BELL’S LIBRARY which was added after Gilbert White’s death. The room is sparsely furnished but has a lot of information about his life and work.

The GREAT PARLOUR was added to the house by Gilbert White in 1777 to entertain his family and friends as he regularly held parties lasting for several days. He kept meticulous records of building progress which can be read on the information leaflet in the room.

The room would have been sparsely furnished with furniture set against the walls to give plenty of space for dancing. It could be moved around the room for taking tea or playing whist. The windows would have had shutters so curtains were purely for decoration and just reached the dado rail. The wallpaper is based on an C18th design and the red paint was commonly used at that time. The yellow was called ‘India yellow’ and was made from cow’s urine after they had been fed on a diet of mango leaves.

There is DVD on Gilbert White made by Michael Wood. In pride of place is the original manuscript of ‘The Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne’. In the bookcase is an almost complete collection of all the editions published.

The LITTLE PARLOUR was the main room of the original C15th hall house and would have been open to the roof. At some point it was divided into smaller rooms and the pillar replaces what was originally a load bearing wall. The stairs are C20th. It is furnished with C18th furniture. The woodwork is painted with India Yellow, while the walls are Print Room Yellow, which was commonly used on walls which had prints on them.

Beyond is the TEA ROOM, which was added after Gilbert White’s death and was used as the dining room.

Behind it is the OLD KITCHEN which was probably Gilbert White’s dining room, with the kitchen off. It became a kitchen after the new dining room was built. It originally had a stone flag floor, but the floor was lowered in the 1960s, when the fireplace was altered too. It is now reached down several steps. The dresser is a typical C18th design and the cooking utensils are either late C18th or early C19th. The walls were painted blue as it was thought this colour repelled flies and other insects.

The back stairs lead up to GILBERT WHITE’S BEDROOM above the old kitchen. This was originally a sitting room before the great parlour was built. The bed hangings were embroidered by by Gilbert White’s aunts. The shutters are kept closed to protect the hangings from light damage.

The stool by the bed belonged to Gilbert White and it is thought the chair next to the writing table may have done too. The fireplace is late C19th but it is known that White kept his wine warm in the cupboard above.

The GILBERT WHITE MEETING ROOM over the tea room houses books from the Robert Washington Oates and includes editions of White’s work including a first edition of the Natural History, as well as books on natural history. There is also information about plans for further development of the house.

GILBERT WHITE’S STUDY has been furnished as an C18th study and the drop leaf table and writing desk may have belonged to White. He was a great letter writer and copies of his letters are displayed on the desk. The case of stuffed birds reflects White’s interest in natural history.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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