|Reading a dusty old book in the library ('The White Horses of the West of England - With Notices of Some other Ancient Turf-Monuments' by the Reverend W C Plenderleath (MA)) I came across his comments about the redesigning of the horse.
A man called Gough drew the horse as it was in 1772, complete with a strange curvy body and a crescent to the tip of the tail. It's thought that the horse was then recut in 1778:
"by a wretch of the name of Gee, who was steward to Lord Abingdon". Presumably that's the closest to swearing a Victorian vicar can get.
I think I'd like the old Rev Plenderleath. In his 'White horse jottings' in the 1891 vol of Wiltshire Arch. NH. Mag. he dryly remarks:
"Mr Gee's horse... was repaired and the outlines practically recut, about the year 1853... Since  some further reformations have, I believe, taken place. I remember that before the latter works were begun some one was good enough to write and ask me [..] whether there was any objection to the outlining of the figure with kerb stones..
Mr Gee's horse appeared to me to enjoy the same security against injury causable by restoration as did Juvenal's traveller against loss by robbers when his purse was already empty."
He also mentions, interestingly, that the Gough drawing of the earlier horse might not be as weird as we now think: he says that Gough described the figure being 100ft in length, by nearly as much in height - therefore perhaps the drawing is just a product of foreshortening.
Posted by Rhiannon
25th September 2002ce
Edited 6th January 2004ce