“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Hill Figures at Westbury and Cherhill

Back in September 2013 I used the power of Google Maps to conduct an “Armchair Tour” of Britain’s white horses. Since that post I have been able to visit both the Westbury White Horse and the Cherhill White Horse, so I can now share some pictures of them in the flesh.

The Westbury White Horse

The Westbury White Horse can be found about 1.6 miles east of the town of Westbury in Wiltshire (south of the B3098), and resides just below an Iron Age hill fort (Bratton Camp) on the edge of Bratton Downs. The Westbury White Horse is believed to be the oldest of the white horses in Wiltshire, and the second oldest in the country.

Legend suggests that the white horse was carved to commemorate King Alfred’s victory at the Battle of Edington in 878. King Alfred was supposedly born in the Vale of White Horses near Uffington. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Uffington White Horse would have been long in existence before King Alfred’s birth, and as such it could have provided inspiration for the Westbury horse. However, there is no firm evidence for the existence of a chalk horse at Westbury before the year 1742, so it is deemed unlikely that this legend is in fact true.

The Westbury White Horse has evolved over time. An engraving from the 1760s depicts a horse at the site, but the horse is smaller than today’s horse and is facing in the opposite direction. Over the years the horse has been slowly remodelled and “improved”, with the original chalk horse slowly morphing into the low maintenance concreted-over horse that can be seen today.

The Westbury White Horse

The view from the white horse

A fire beacon a short distance from the Westbury White Horse. This was installed in honour of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2002.

The Cherhill White Horse

The Cherhill White Horse can be found just to the southeast of the village of Cherhill in Wiltshire (to the south of the A4); the horse lies on the side of a hill fort known as Oldbury Castle. The Cherhill White Horse is believed to be the third oldest white horse in Britain, and was cut in 1780 by a man from nearby Calne. Apparently the horse once had a unique feature, a glass eye, which was created by bottles being pressed upside down into the ground. It seems that this glass eye would reflect sunlight enabling the horse's eye to be seen from quite a distance. The eye however, is no longer made of glass, as the bottles slowly disappeared over time. Presumably taken as souvenirs by visitors.

If the Cherill horse looks nice and clean in the below pictures it is because the horse was re-chalked in May 2015, a task that apparently required 14 tonnes of chalk! If you want to see what is involved in maintaining a white horse, take a look at "Maintaining the Broad Town White Horse".

The Cherhill White Horse

Near the Cherhill White Horse is an obelisk called the Lansdowne Monument. This is a 38m stone structure that was erected in 1845 by the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne in memorial to his ancestor Sir William Petty.

Pictures: Wiltshire (May 2015).

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