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Hecky & Whitibuss: Celebrating the friendship of Hester Chapone and Gilbert White

Exhibition: September-December 2023

Hester Chapone (1727-1801) was a celebrated writer, critic, whose work Letters on the Improvement of the Mind was published 250 years ago this year. It was a book that revolutionised the way that women were educated in the late eighteenth century. Gilbert White met the young Hester Chapone (then Hester Mulso) when he was a student at Oxford University, they hit it off and became life long friends one grew to be a pioneer in the field of natural history, the other in education.

This exhibition explores their friendship and celebrates Hester Chapone’s life and work.

    Gilbert Whites 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.

    Learn more