THE GENTLE HISTORY OF NATURALISM IN HAMPSHIRE: GILBERT WHITE AND THE OATES COLLECTIONS

The Wakes is an historic house in the village of Selborne that was once home to the pioneering 18th century English naturalist Gilbert White. Besides being dedicated to White’s life, The Wakes is also home to the personal collections of Frank Oates, Victorian explorer and naturalist, and his nephew Captain Lawrence Oates, whom we all know of as the hero of the ill fated Antarctic expedition of 1912. This is a fantastic museum and one definitely not to be missed.

The exterior of the Wakes house now a museum
The Wakes in Selborne now houses the Gilbert White and Oates Collection

It seems a little incongruous to have an 18th century naturalist sharing a museum with a 20th century heroic explorer, Captain Lawrence Oates, and his uncle Frank Oates. Gilbert White is famous for his seminal work, Natural Histories and Antiquities of Selborne, the fourth most published book in the English language, after the Bible, the works of Shakespeare and Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. His house, in the village of Selborne, is now home to their shared museum.


Selborne, Hampshire, in the south of England, is a quintessentially English village. Deep in the countryside and full of beautiful quirky old houses, Selborne has a Grade I listed church and is a stop on the Writers Way, which also features Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, just a ten minute drive away. The museum is on the one main road straggling through the village, a busy and traffic filled road which seems incompatible with the peaceful houses and expansive countryside on either side.

A flower bed in the garden at the Wakes
The Six Quarters Garden