What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
THE HOME OF GILBERT WHITE
=How to get there.=–Train from Waterloo. L. and S.W. Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Alton (4 miles from Selborne). =Distance from London.=–46-1/2 miles. East Tisted, 2 miles from Selborne, shortly to be available. =Average Time.=–1-3/4 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 7s. 9d. 5s. 0d. 3s. 10-1/2d. Return 13s. 6d. 8s. 8d. 7s. 9d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–At Alton–"Swan Hotel,” “Crown Hotel,” etc.
Selborne, the birthplace of the famous naturalist, Gilbert White, is situated in the extreme eastern corner of the county of Hampshire. A vast chalk hill rises some 300 feet above the south-western side of the village, part of which is covered with an extensive beech wood, called “The Hanger,” and a down or sheep-walk. This down is a beautiful park-like spot, with a delightful woodland, now bounded by the Sussex Downs. The village lies at the foot of the chalk hill parallel with the Hanger, and contains only one straggling street, nearly a mile in length, a small rivulet rising at each end. The stream at the north-western end often fails, but the other, known as the “Well-Head," is a fine spring, seldom influenced by drought. Wolmer Forest, near by, is famed for its timber. In the centre of the village, on a piece of ground commonly known as “The Plestor,” there stood, until the fearful storm of 1703, a colossal oak tree, with a short body and enormous horizontally spreading arms. The stone steps, with seats above them, surrounding the tree, formed a favourite resort for both old and young during summer evenings. This oak, together with an equally large elm tree, are mentioned by White.
Gilbert White was born in 1720. He began his education at Basingstoke, from whence he proceeded in 1739 to Oriel College, Oxford, and finally became one of the senior proctors of the university in 1752. On his father’s death, White became the occupier of his house in Selborne known as “The Wakes,” and afterwards became curate of the parish. He never married, but lived a happy and uneventful life, wrapped up in the wonderfully exact observations of nature which were the basis of his numerous letters forming The Natural History of Selborne. His final resting-place is unobtrusively marked by a simple grey stone bearing the initials “G.W.,” a monument entirely in keeping with Gilbert White’s quiet and retiring nature and refreshingly simple style of writing.
[Illustration: THE WAKES.
Gilbert White’s house at Selborne.]