Property Services

Gilbert White’s House and The Oates Museum

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The Wakes was the home of eighteenth century naturalist Gilbert White, author of ‘The Natural History of Selborne’. It is now a museum run by an independent charitable trust and the house is a grade I listed building within grounds that are listed grade II, a Conservation Area and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

By the late 1990s, the house was in urgent need of repair. The Trust successfully applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and appointed HCC Property Services to undertake historical research, condition surveys and management of repairs.

Restoration work was carried out in phases to enable the museum to remain open for as long as possible. All the building services were replaced and access to the museum was improved by a number of sensitive alterations and additions, including a new entrance ramp and WC facilities. Edwardian tiling and stonework belonging to the original house were discovered under partitioning in the long corridor, and these features have been left exposed for visitors to enjoy.

The seventeen different roof areas required major repairs, so under a temporary scaffolding roof, they were stripped back to the rafters. The dimensions and condition of every timber was recorded and drawn, and investigative surveys for timber decay were undertaken before the extent of repair work was considered.

Using tree-ring dating, the roof of the Little Parlour was dated 1610. It is probably part of the original house which was subsequently extended eight times between 1725 and 1885. All the repair work was done with the lightest possible touch so as to retain the original character and charm of this unique house.

Key Benefits

  • Rescue of a culturally important building from a dangerous state of decline
  • Re-invigoration of a unique museum and visitor destination
  • Significant improvements to access and visitor facilities
  • Contribution to knowledge of the historical development of the house
  • Preservation of and additions to visible historic points of interest in the house’s fabric

Project details

The Wakes, Selborne, Hampshire

Client The Trustees of Gilbert White’s House & The Oates Museum

Value £1.8 million

Completed November 2003

Specialist Contact

Giles Pritchard

Specialist Conservation Architect

01962 847801