Birthday’s weren’t commonly celebrated in the Eighteenth Century in a way that we would recognise today. In fact if Gilbert’s diaries are anything to go by the 18th July pasted by like any other day…
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.
However we are looking to celebrate Gilbert’s 297th Birthday with two events! On Sunday 16th July we will Meet the Whites and the house will come alive with Gilbert White’s family and friends as well as White himself, they will be telling stories of their lives in Selborne during the eighteenth century. See traditional crafts being demonstrated and help us give a toast to Gilbert’s 297 years! The event runs throughout the day and is included in normal admission.
Then on Sunday 23rd the museum joins forces with the village and St. Mary’s Church for a special evensong service. Rev. Canon Robin Ewbank explains ‘The 18th July seems to be a significant date in our benefice as it is the day that Jane Austen died 200 years ago in 1817, as the whole world is being made very well aware; much less well known is the fact that it is also Gilbert White’s birthday 297 years ago in 1720. We have started a tradition of having an appropriate evening service of thanksgiving to God around this time for all lovers of Selborne and its natural history, as made famous by its most celebrated son. Do come and join us for a simple evening service followed by refreshments in St Mary’s Church, Selborne, on Sunday evening 23rd July at 6.00pm’. Drinks and refreshments including a birthday cake will be provided by the Museum and Friends of Gilbert White & The Oates Collections.