On the 18th July 1720 Gilbert White was born to parents John White a Lawyer and Anne nee Holt, in the vicarage at Selborne, home to John’s parents. The new born Gilbert’s grandfather (also Gilbert White) was vicar of St. Mary’s , and it was at this church where on Sunday the village of Selborne and beyond gathered to wish Gilbert White, author of The Natural History of Selborne a very happy 296th birthday.
The service was conducted by Robin Ewbank, with Readings from Trustee’s Rosemary Irwin and Phillip Geddes, from Gilbert White’s House now a Museum across the road from where the great man was born. The Readings were a lovely mix , celebrating two sides of Gilbert’s life, the natural world, which so inspired the writer and the church which was his lifelong profession.
Ronnie Davidson-Houston read from The Natural History and a biography of Gilbert written my his nephew, John White. Rachel Ewbank read a poem written by Gilbert ‘The Naturalists Summer-Evening Walk’ the perfect choice for such a lovely summery evening.
Once the service was over the congregation enjoyed a drink and a wonderful section of nibbles. Rose Grabham Catering manager at Gilbert White’s Tea Parlour at the Museum made a simply stunning fruit cake, in the shape of the naturalist Journal, with an entry from Gilbert White’s 57th birthday made on the 18th July 1777. Decorated with a swift and flowers.
Thanks to the wonderful website naturalhistoryofselborne.com you can find out what Gilbert was doing on any given day. Here is a list of birthday journal entries.
July 18, 1792 – Men cut their meadows. Mr Churton came.
July 18, 1790 – Mrs Clement & daughters came.
: July 18, 1788 – Fly-catcher feeds his sitting hen, Mrs H.W., Bessy, & Lucy came.
July 18, 1786 – Gathered & preserved some Rasps.
July 18, 1785 – Savoys & artichokes over-run with aphides. The Fly-catcher in the vine sits on her eggs, & the cock feeds her. She has four eggs.
July 18, 1781 – Bramshot-place Lapwings haunt the uplands still. Farmers complain that their wheat is blited. At Bramshot-place, the house of Mr Richardson, in the wilderness near the stream, grows wild, & in plenty, Sorbus aucuparia, the quicken-tree, or mountain-ash, Rhamnus frangula, berry-bearing alder; & Teucrium scorodonia, wood-sage, & whortle-berries. The soil is sandy. In the garden at Dowland’s, the seat, lately, of Mr Kent, stands a large Liriodendrum tulipifera, or tulip-tree, which was in flower. The soil is poor sand; but produces beautiful pendulous Larches. Mr R’s garden, tho’ a sand, abounds in fruit, & in all manner of good & forward kitchen-crops. Many China-asters this spring seeded themselves there, and were forward; some cucumber-plants also grew-up of themselves from the seeds of a rejected cucumber thrown aside last autumn. The well at Downland’s is 130 feet deep; at Bramshot place.. Mr R’s garden is at an average a fortnight before mine.
July 18, 1778 – We have never had rain enough to lay the dust since saturday June 13: now five weeks. By watering the fruit-trees we have procured much young wood. The thermometer belonging to my brother Thomas White of South Lambeth was in the most shady part of his garden on July 5th & July 14th: up at 88, a degree of heat not very common even at Gibraltar!! July 5: Thermr at Lyndon in Rutland 85.
July 18, 1777 – Swifts dash & frolick about, & seem to be teaching their young the use of their wings. Thatched my rick of meadow-hay with the damaged St foin instead of straw. Bees begin gathering at three o’clock in the morning: Swallows are stirring at half hour after two.
July 18, 1773 – Lound thunder shower. Mrs Snooke of Ringmere near Lewes had a coach-horse killed by this tempest: the horse was at grass just before the house.
July 18, 1772 – Frequent sprinklings, but not enough all day to lay the dust. The dry fit has lasted six weeks this day.
July 18, 1769 – Moor-buzzard, milvus aeruginosus, has young. It builds in low shrubs on wild heaths. Five young.
: July 18, 1768 – The country is drenched with wet, and quantities of hay were spoiled.