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Uffington White Horse

Hill Figure


Details of site on Pastscape

A chalk hill figure on White Horse Hill known as the 'White Horse'. It is situated 160 metres north-east of Uffington Castle hillfort. The figure appears as the side view of a stylised horse with its head to the right, measuring 110 metres in length from tail to ear, and 40 metres high. The horse is visible from all over the valley floor on a clear day, and is maintained by the National Trust. The White Horse is known to have existed since at least the 12th century on place name evidence. The first documented maintenance of the horse dates to 1681, and subsequent restorations occurred at various intervals until the last recorded scouring funded by the landlord in 1892. Scouring took place every seven years from at least 1677, and involved stripping the discoloured and damaged surface, weeding, and trimming/replacing of the turf edges; it was then packed with a new layer of chalk. When this custom ended cleaning occurred only when the appearance became so poor it caused public comment. To what extent the repeated scourings affected the original design is unclear, although 19th century illustrations indicate some minor changes to the legs and head. The horse was camouflaged in 1940 to prevent German navigation by landmarks during World War II, and was last scoured between 1951 and 1953, at which time a small trench was excavated at the end of the nose. This revealed a series of layers of chalk, and indicated the nose had originally been longer. Geophysical survey and excavation in the 1990s showed some changes to the form and position of the horse. It was generally believed to be Iron Age in date on the basis of stylistic comparisons with images on Iron Age coinage, making it contemporary with the hillfort to the south. However, in 1995 Optical Stimulated Luminescence dating was used to date the figure to the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age, and was probably constructed between 1380 and 550 BC.
Chance Posted by Chance
10th August 2012ce
Edited 25th August 2013ce

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