Wheler, George (DNB00)
WHELER, Sir GEORGE (1650–1723), traveller, the son of Charles Wheler of Charing, Kent, colonel in the life guards, by his wife Anne, daughter of John Hutchin of Egerton, Kent, was born in 1650 at Breda in Holland, where his parents, who were royalists, were in exile. He was educated at Wye school, Kent, and at Lincoln College, Oxford, matriculating on 31 Jan. 1667. He was created M.A. on 26 March 1683, and D.D. by diploma on 18 May 1702. In 1671 he became a student at the Middle Temple. In October 1673 he set out for a tour in France, Switzerland, and Italy, and was at first accompanied by George Hickes [q. v.], his tutor at Lincoln College. While in Italy he received some instruction in antiquities from Vaillant, and at Venice, in June 1675, made the acquaintance of James Spon, physician of Lyons, with whom he travelled in Greece and the Levant in 1675 and 1676. Spon published a separate account of the journey in 1678 (Voyage d'Italie, de Dalmatie, de Grèce, &c., Lyons, 12mo). Wheler's account, ‘A Journey into Greece,’ was not published till 1682. These travels in Greece have, as Michaelis (Ancient Marbles, p. 56) remarks, the charm and value of a journey into an almost unexplored country. Among the places visited and described by Wheler are Zante, Delos, Constantinople, Prusa ad Olympum, Thyatira, Ephesus, Delphi, Corinth, and Attica. He gave an account of the antiquities of Athens, and brought home marbles and inscriptions. He made considerable use of coins in his book, and paid much attention to botany. He brought from the east several plants that had not been cultivated in Britain, including ‘St. John's wort of Olympus.’ The botanists Ray, Morison, and Plukenet acknowledge their obligations for rare plants received from Wheler (Pulteney, Progress of Botany, i. 359). At Smyrna he caught a chameleon, which he describes in detail.
Wheler returned to England in November 1676. On 1 Sept. 1682 he received knighthood. About 1683 he took holy orders. In 1684 he received a canonry in Durham Cathedral, and from 1685 to 1702 was vicar of Basingstoke, Hampshire. In 1706 he was promoted to the rectory of Winston, and in 1709 to the rectory of Houghton-le-Spring, both in the county of Durham. He died at Durham, after a short illness, on 15 Jan. 1723, being at that time canon and rector of Houghton-le-Spring, where he founded and endowed a school for girls. He was buried in the galilee of Durham Cathedral.
Wheler bequeathed his Greek and Latin manuscripts to Lincoln College, and his dried plants, arranged in four volumes, to the university of Oxford, to which in 1683 he had presented the marbles and antiquities brought by him from Greece. He left his coins (English, Greek, and Roman) to the dean and chapter of Durham. By his will he secured a provision for the minister officiating at the chapel in Spital Fields, built in 1693, chiefly at his own expense. This building, formerly known as Wheler Chapel, was modernised in 1842, and is now St. Mary's, Spital Square. Wheler had considerable property in Spital Fields and Westminster, and estates in Hampshire and Kent. In 1692 he purchased the ancient archiepiscopal palace at Charing, Kent.
A portrait of Wheler, engraved by William Bromley from a painting, is published in Surtees's ‘Durham,’ i. 171 (see also Gent. Mag. 1833, ii. 105). Wheler married Grace, daughter of Sir Thomas Higgons [q. v.] of Grewel, near Odiham, Hampshire, and had by her a family of eighteen children.
Wheler published: 1. ‘A Journey into Greece,’ London, 1682, fol., with illustrations; French translation, Amsterdam, 1689, 12mo. 2. ‘Account of Churches and Places of Assembly of the Primitive Christians,’ 1689. 3. ‘The Protestant Monastery; or Christian Œconomicks, containing Directions for the Religious Conduct of a Family’ [London], 1698, 8vo.
Granville Wheler (1701–1770), third son of Sir George Wheler, born in August 1701, was fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge (1722–4), becoming rector of Leake and prebendary of Southwell, Nottinghamshire. He was elected F.R.S. in 1728, and at his house, Otterden Place, near Charing, Kent, carried on many experiments in electricity with Stephen Gray [q. v.] After Gray's death (1736) he published his own observations as to the repulsive power of electricity, in the 'Philosophical Transactions' for 1739. He died in May 1770, and was buried in Otterden church. He married, first, Lady Catherine Maria, daughter of Theophilus Hastings, seventh earl of Huntingdon [q. v.], and had by her seven children; secondly, Mary, daughter of John Dove of London. His library was sold in 1771 (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, iii. 669).
[Wheler's Journey into Greece; Memoir of Sir George Wheler, 1820?; Surtees's Durham, i. 171 f.; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Gent. Mag. 1832 i. 397; and Memoir of Granville Wheler in Gent. Mag. 1831, i. 393 f.]