The awkwardly titled Gilbert White's House and the Oats Collection is dedicated to the lives of three men; one was firmly rooted in Selborne whilst the other two roamed the world and have no close connection to the place.
The Reverend Gilbert White was born in the village in 1720 and his family moved round the corner to this house, The Wakes, when he was seven or eight. He studied at Oriel College, Oxford, was ordained deacon in 1746 and was priested in 1749. After holding a number of curacies mostly in Wiltshire and Hampshire, he eventually moved back to the family home in Selborne on the death of his father in 1758, and was appointed curate of Selborne.
It was here that he began his great work The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne which was finally published in in 1789, just four years before his death. Since then it has never been out of print.
White pioneered the idea of studying living birds and animals in their natural habitat rather that dead specimens, as had been the case up to then.
Downstairs the house has been restored according to descriptions in White's own correspondence and include a number of items owned by him. I particularly liked the cabinet in the Great Parlour which displays the original manuscript of White's book. The drawers of this cabinet are glass-topped and contain various early printed copies of the book.
Outside, the garden is being restored as it might have been in White's time, albeit without the prodigious quantities of vegetables that White grew. Particularly evocative is the two-dimensional wooden 'statue' of Hercules. On a curate's stipend White couldn't afford the real thing.
For opening time, admission prices, etc. please see the official site, detailed below.
Upstairs is given over to an exhibition space to two men: Captain Lawrence Oates who accompanied Scott on his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole. He is famous for sacrificing his life with the words, "I am just going outside and may be some time", thus proving that sometimes it is not suicidal depression; your colleagues really would be better off if you were dead. Although, given his paedophilia, and the fact that he had spent most of the expedition shooting the ponies, the former cannot be ruled out.
Also commemorated is Lawrence Oates' uncle Frank Oates. Who following the examples of Livingstone and Speke explored darkest Africa accompanied only by six men with rifles and two dozen native porters.
There are two main routes from the village up to Selborne Common on the chalk ridge above: the short and steep Zig-zag Path and the slow and steady Borstal Path, both built by Gilbert White in the middle of the eighteenth century.
I took the gentle way up and came down by the zig-zag, although I have to admit that finding my way from the top of one to the other was more a matter of luck than judgement.
The common is mostly ancient woodland, and is still home to much of the wildlife White would have known.