Gilbert White’s House & Gardens welcomes Clare Balding and guests for a special birthday celebration
Gilbert White, the father of ecology, celebrated his 301st birthday on Sunday 18th July with a party to remember. Tv and radio broadcaster Clare Balding joined 600 visitors and 25 stall holders to celebrate his life and work at the fun filled event.
It was Clare’s first visit to the museum and she visited the brand new displays which she then formally unveiled on the day, before presenting ‘Gilbert White’ with his birthday cake in front of the guests.
Speaking on the day, Clare Balding said: “I’ve never been to Gilbert White’s House & Gardens before; I feel now that part of my life has been completed from being invited here today.
“What Gilbert White did 300 years ahead of his time really highlights the impact that we have as human beings on the environment and our interaction with living things, be that flora, fauna, trees or wild animals and how we have a responsibility to do the right thing and live the right way.”
Visitors enjoyed a full day of activities including a performance from the Alton Fringe Theatre of excerpts from their play ‘Zig Zag’, based on the life of Gilbert White, and The Hampshire Regency Dancers who performed their first dance since the beginning of the pandemic. The Historical Huzzahs theatre company also treated everyone to hilarious re-enactments of life on the sea in the 18th century by singing well known sea shanties. The 25 stall holders included the National Trust, West Meon Bee Society, The South Downs Society, Liss Archaeology and Portsmouth Natural History Museum to name a few.
The birthday celebrations also provided an opportunity for us to unveil their refurbished displays. Funded by the AIM Biffa Award: History Makers Scheme, each room within the museum has something new for visitors to see, with a new display case featuring never-before-seen items of Gilbert White’s. The Great Parlour, which Gilbert added to the house in 1777, was Gilbert’s room for entertaining – which he loved – and is now laid out to reflect his love of partying.
Judith Bowles, Director at Gilbert White’s House & Gardens, said: “Gilbert White’s birthday celebration was a fantastic success! We were delighted to welcome so many visitors on the day to enjoy the array of stalls and entertainment of which we are most grateful for. Thank you to Clare Balding for joining us and presenting Gilbert White with his birthday cake and thank you to our stall holders and visitors for making the day one to remember.
“Gilbert White’s legacy continues to live on, with his work, as Clare Balding said, still being as relevant and important today as it was nearly 300 years ago. We’re looking forward to welcoming more visitors over the summer to explore the brand new displays, spend time in the beautiful gardens and enjoy some of the other exciting events we have planned.”