Newest Review: ... because of the theft. The horse at Alton Barnes has been fairly well looked after , the Wiltshire Crop Circles Study Group removed the wee... more
The Wiltshire White Horses
Member Name: Emmald
The Wiltshire White Horses
Advantages: Some beautiful areas that are steeped in history
Before we go on to take a closer look at each of the White horses maybe I will tell you just why I love them so much.
When our children were young the Westbury White Horse was a very popular weekend visiting place, you could bundle the kids into the car, pack a picnic, have just enough petrol in the tank to get there and back and still be sure that it was going to be a good afternoon out. The entrance to the Westbury white horse is via a long, narrow and windy road. But the road does have a number of `passing points`. As the car reaches the brow of the hill there is grass as far as the eye can see.
The Westbury White Horse was then the equivalent of a modern indoor play centre but it was filled with fresh air and cost little or nothing for an afternoons visit.
Everywhere you looked there would be tartan blankets covering the grass, sandwich boxes and bottles of pop were then the order of the day. As parents in the 1970`s you had already realised that life was just one massive credit crunch and family entertainment had to be done on a shoestring.
The one and only temptation that parked on the top of the hill was the Mr Whippy van, so the piggy bank was raided beforehand to raise enough for five ice creams.
Budding George Bests dribbled their footballs everywhere, two cardigans marked the goal mouth and even the dog used to enjoy the game! We played Hide and Seek in the long grass, we basked in the afternoon sun and there wasn't a square foot of ground that wasn't occupied by some Sunday afternoon trippers.
The climax of the day was the trek around the edge of the white chalk horse, it was a ritual.
To reach the White horse you have to walk to the far side of the field and then you begin a steep descent, we must have resembled an elephants tail as we all clung to each other trying not to slip on the chalk. The journey around the edge of the horse was perilous fun and many times we only managed to walk around one of the legs!
But Westbury isn't the only place in Wiltshire to have the honour of having a chalk White Horse embedded in the hillside, in fact there are another twelve in the county but sadly only eight of them are still visible , the rest are there but have long since grown over.
Lets start off by talking about the Alton Barnes White horse.
The white horse looks out over the Pewsey Vale and can be seen for miles around. The Alton Barnes White horse directly faces the new Pewsey White Horse.
In 1812 Mr Robert Pile, who lived at the local farm paid Twenty pounds to John Thorne to design and cut out the horse. On reflection Twenty pounds was a considerable amount of money in the 1800`s but the work didn't go according to plan. John Thorne decided to design the horse himself and then draught in workers to excavate the shape of the horse. To cut a long story short Mr Thorne then decided to do a moonlight flit taking the Twenty pounds with him! Robert Pile had to pay out again and some time later John Thorne was hanged, but no one seems to know if he was hung because of the theft.
The horse at Alton Barnes has been fairly well looked after , the Wiltshire Crop Circles Study Group removed the weeds and grass from the white surface and redefined some edging in 2002.
The horse has also been lit up a few times in past year, a group of dedicated people placed hundreds of tea lights around the edge of the horse on the night of a Winter Solstice, by all accounts the event was a sight to behold.
The Ordnance Survey Grid Reference for Alton Barnes is SU 106 637.
Now we move on to the Broad Town white Horse.
The village of Broad Town is South of Wooton Bassett, on the Marlborough road, the horse itself sits in a dip to the North East of the village.
Records state that the horse was on what used to be farmland. In 1864 the farmer William Simmonds cut the horse, fully intending to make it larger in future years. But William was forced to give up the farm and the horse remained the same size as when it was first cut.
Up until 1991 the Broad Town horse had been left to its own devices and was rather unkempt until a local restoration team was formed. They worked hard to restore the horse to its former glory and it is still looking good today. Again this horse can be seen for miles around, so the restoration team must be proud of their efforts.
The Ordnance Survey Grid Reference for the Broad Town White Horse is SU 098 783.
Next stop is the Cherhill White Horse.
This horse is on the Eastern side of the village of Cherhill, off of the A4 Calne to Marlborough road.
They say that this horse is the second oldest of the thirteen.
A Dr Christopher Alsop from Calne designed the horse and had it cut. Saying goes that he was a great friend of George Stubbs , who was famous for his paintings of horses and animals so maybe that was his inspiration. At one time the horse had a glass eye, or rather an upturned bottle that sufficed! But the glass was constantly being removed or smashed so the horse ended up with a concrete eye.
In recent years the Cherhill White Horse Restoration Group raised a significant amount of money and had the outline re-cut and the entire horse was re-chalked.
The Cherhill horse is very visible from the A4.
The Ordnance Survey Grid Reference is SU 049 696.
The Devizes Old White Horse (The Snob Horse)
Although Devizes has a new White Horse I think it is quite sad to think that the old one has been lost.
This White horse sat to the North of Devizes on the edge of the Roundway Down.
There is a lovely tale to this horse, it was cut mid 1800`s by a group of local shoemakers, the word `snob` was apparently a dialect word for shoemaker and it was always known as Snobs Horse.
It wasn't looked after and eventually it was lost in grass and weeds.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SU 000 645
Happy news! The new Devizes White Horse.
The new Devizes White Horse was cut in 1999 by local people to welcome the new millennium. This horse is the only white Horse in Wiltshire that faces to the right. It is cut into the side of Roundway Hill and overlooks the village of Roundway.
A local tenant farmer offered the land and permission was given from the Crown Estate Commissioners for the project to go ahead. The horse can be seen clearly from Roundway Village.
But only eight years later the horse was barely recognisable and a community service group from the Probation Service were drafted in to clean the horse. The top of the horse is now in good shape.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SU 016 641
The Hackpen White Horse, also known as the Broad Hinton or the Winterbourne Bassett White Horse.
The Hackpen White Horse lays on the edge of the Malborough downs and South East of Broad Hinton village. This horse was more than likely cut to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria. It is thought that a parish clerk joined forces with the local pub landlord to cut the White Horse.
In 2004 a gentleman called Bevan Pope set about weeding and cleaning up the horse, restoring it to its former glory.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SU 128 749
Yet another sad tale...
The Ham Hill White Horse, otherwise known as the Inkpen White horse.
In the late Eighteen hundreds a nearby property owner called Mr Wright cut the Ham Hill horse, although the shape was dug out the horse was never filled in with chalk. Sadly as the years passed the new owners of the property showed little or no interest in maintaining the horse and it just disappeared into the undergrowth. Today there is nothing left to show that it ever existed.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SU 348 621
On to the Marlborough or Preschute White Horse.
A small white horse that sits on the side of Granham Hill at the village of Preschute, West of the A345 Malborough to Pewsey road.
The pupils of a nearby boys school cut the horse in 1804 and it was well looked after until the death of the owner of the school sometime in 1930. Since then it has alternated between being cared for and neglected. Early pictures of the horse show a sturdy figure but the horse seems rather spindly now. This White Horse cannot be seen clearly and it seems in need of some restoration work yet again.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SU 184 682
The Old Pewsey White Horse.
As you may have already guessed this White Horse was replaced by a new one in 1937.
Robert Pile from Manor Farm instructed in the late 1700`s that the White Horse should be cut.
The name Robert Pile has already appeared relating to the Alton Barnes White Horse but this may well have been his son seeing as all this happened over thirty years later.The horse was last scoured ( see bottom of the review ) in 1789 and from then on it was left to fend for itself and consequently vanished , covered in weeds and growth.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SU 171580
Yet another new horse...
The Pewsey New White Horse.
The new Pewsey White Horse lays about a mile to the South of Pewsey towards the village of Everleigh. In fact it is fairly close to the old horse.
They were looking for something to commemorate the Coronation of George V1 in 1937 and after plans were submitted on three separate occasions by George Marple, a hill carver, the idea was finally accepted. This horse was cut by volunteers form the Pewsey Fire Brigade and when it was initially cut the horse had the date carved above it. Today the date has long gone but the Pewsey 6X Club look after and maintain the White Horse.
The horse looks out towards the horse at Alton Barnes.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SU 171 580
The Rockley White Horse.
About four miles North West of Malborough some time during 1948 they were in the process of ploughing some land on Rockley Down when they discovered a huge patch of chalk that seemed to resemble a left facing horse.
The existance of the horse is shrouded in mystery, no one knows why it was cut or who commissioned it. Since then the land has been ploughed and all signs of the horse have now gone, so it will always remain one of life's mysteries.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SU 153 733
Last one! The Tan Hill White Horse.
Tan Hill sits in the Parish of All Cannings and author Kathleen Wiltshire had written about a `small donkey` that could still be seen on Tan Hill. They seem to think that the author was in fact possibly referring to another White Horse rather than a donkey, but many searches of the area failed to show any sign of it.
But in time more local enquiries were made and the villagers were able to confirm that the Tan Hill White Horse had once existed.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SU 080 644
Although the White Horses may mean little to some I think that they form an important part of our heritage. Although they are not particularly beautiful or even useful, for the most part they all have a significant amount of history behind them., most of which is totally fascinating.
I take my hat off to the hard working volunteers who help maintain the horses for future generations to admire.
White Horse Scouring.
I mentioned the term `scouring` during the review and asked that you take a look at the end of the review.
Scouring is an old tradition, huge amounts of crushed chalk are brought in and laid on top of the figure of the horse, it creates a thick layer and restores the horse to its former glory.
If you have managed to get to the end of the review without dropping off I will be pleasantly surprised!
But all of this information reinforces the fact that we have some beautiful places in Great Britain.
Summary: A visit to see the White Horses is time well spent
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