Gilbert White’s House
Gilbert White was aged 7 or 8 when the White family moved from the Vicarage on Selborne’s Plestor, to this house, called ‘The Wakes’ (named after the Wake family who had lived here previously). At that time the property would have been no more than a ‘two up, two down’ but over the subsequent years lots of extensions and additions have been made, creating the long sizeable house you see today.
The rooms have been restored following descriptions in White’s own correspondence and include a chair he used at Oriel College, Oxford (loaned from the College), items of contemporary furniture, family portraits and bed hangings embroidered for him by his aunts.
On display is the original manuscript of his book, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, which was purchased with generous help from English Heritage and others.
Few realise as they travel on the busy B3006 through the pretty village of Selborne, that behind the imposing frontage of Gilbert White’s House, ‘The Wakes’, lies beauty, tranquillity and history in 30 acres of ancient parkland and carefully restored gardens.
Visitors to this secret Hampshire garden marvel at the quirky features, glorious vistas and creative planting which are delightful whatever the season or weather.
Gilbert White was an experimental, keen and enthusiastic gardener and elements he designed include the wine-pipe seat, the cut-out statue of Hercules and two hahas plus the herb garden, kitchen garden and ‘six quarters’. 18th century planting ensures that the garden has much to offer the true plantsman but it can be equally enjoyed for its tranquility, simple charm and beauty.
Head Gardener David Standing began work here in 1979 and immediately embarked on an ambitious project to uncover the original layout of the garden and recreate it. As no plan existed, David studied White’s journals, correspondence, household account books and a diary called ‘The Garden Kalendar’ in order to work out the garden design that White created, which had all but disappeared in the decades since his death.
A dedicated group of garden volunteers known affectionately as The Wakes Weeders, help David and his small team with all aspects of garden maintenance (new recruits always welcome!)
The Kitchen Garden
The kitchen garden is on Baker’s Hill, one of the areas of the garden used by Gilbert White in the 18th century for growing fruit and vegetables.
The kitchen garden has two main aims, recreating the look and feel of the productive areas of Gilbert White’s garden and supplying the Tea Parlour kitchen with fresh ingredients. The vegetables and soft fruit varieties grown are based on the ones recorded by Gilbert White in his ‘Garden Kalendar’. Where the original 18th century varieties are not available other heritage varieties are grown, mixing some of the more unusual plants with those that can be supplied in bulk for use in the kitchen.
Where possible heritage tools and equipment are used in the kitchen garden to make it feel as much as possible like the original. The signs around the garden include quotes from the ‘Garden Kalendar’ showing the dates when Gilbert White was sowing seeds or planting.