Wiltshire's White Horses on the Chalk Escarpments
Wiltshire is THE county for chalk White Horses.
Thirteen of the estimated twenty-four hill figures in Britain, were in Wiltshire, and another white horse, the oldest of them all, being just over the border in Oxfordshire. Most of the white horses are chalk hill carvings, and the chalk downs of central Wiltshire make the ideal place for these figures to be carved.
Of the thirteen white horses known to have existed in Wiltshire, eight are still visible, and the others have either been lost completely, or are still there, under the turf, but have long since become overgrown and are no longer visible.
Despite popular thinking, most white horses are not of great antiquity. Only the Uffington white horse is of certain prehistoric origin, being some three thousand years old. Most of the others date from the last three hundred years or so, although the origins of some are impossible to establish with any certainty.
Some of the Wiltshire White Horses date back 250 years and eight Wiltshire White Horses still remain on view today including:
Westbury the oldest of the Wiltshire White Horses, located on Westbury Hill, Bratton Down, only about 3 miles from Coachmans Cottage in Steeple Ashton.
In 1778, a Mr. George Gee, who was steward to Lord Abingdon, had the horse re-cut to a design nearer to its present day appearance. He apparently felt that the older version was not a sufficiently good representation of a horse, this suggests that there was an earlier Horse on the site (possibly dating back to the late 1600’s?). It is regarded as one of the best of the White Horses due to its prominent location. Visitors wanting to get nearer to the White Horse can drive up the steep hill from Bratton and park just above the Horse, and enjoy the marvellous panoramic views towards Steeple Ashton and beyond. Or there is a car park on the B3098 below the Horse between Bratton and Westbury, giving an excellent viewing point.
Cherhill White Horse (1780) is located east of Cherhill village beneath Oldbury Castle earthwork.
The Horse can be seen well from the A4 and footpaths lead around the site.
Marlborough (1804) a small White Horse which is not as visible as some of the others due to nearby trees however it can be seen from various points around Marlborough.
Alton Barnes (1812) on Milk Hill, a mile north of Alton Barnes village. This Horse overlooks the Vale of Pewsey, with the best views from the village. In the nearby village of Alton Priors, there is a sarsen stone by the roadside which has a miniature replica of the Alton Barnes white horse carved on it. Milk Hill and nearby Tan Hill are the joint highest points in Wiltshire at 294 metres. There was also a white horse on Tan Hill, though this is no longer visible.
Hackpen (1838) located on the edge of the Marlborough Downs, two miles south of Broad Hinton village. Sited near The Ridgeway.
Broad Town (1864) three miles south of Royal Wootton Bassett this Horse was quite neglected until the formation of the Broad Town White Horse Restoration Society in 1991. The Horse can be reached from footpaths from the village.
Pewsey (1937) a mile to the south of the village; and overlooking the Vale of Pewsey, this is located very close to the site of the original White Horse.
Devizes (1999) the most recent of the White Horses, carved in celebration of the Millennium. Located on Roundway Hill, overlooking the village of Roundway – this is the only Horse in Wiltshire to be facing to the right.
AND INTO OXFORDSHIRE.........
The Uffington White Horse,
one of only four that face to the right. By far the oldest of all the white horses, it is of a different design to the others. Unlike the solid and more or less naturalistic figures of the other horses, the Uffington white horse is formed from stylized curving . Probably dating from between 1200 BC and 800 BC, and of Bronze Age in origin. The Horse can be seen from up to twenty miles away in good conditions.