“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.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Devizes Millennium White Horse

Following on from my previous visits to the Westbury, Cherhill, Broad Town and Hackpen white horses in Wiltshire, here is another of the county's white horses, this time on Roundway Hill on the outskirts of Devizes.

The Devizes White Horse is also known as the Devizes Millennium White Horse as it was cut in 1999 as part of the celebrations for the new millennium. The Devizes horse (which is approximately 150 ft by 150 ft) is unique amongst Wiltshire's white horses as it is the only one that faces to the right, all of the rest face in the opposite direction.

The Devizes Millennium White Horse is not the first white horse to grace Devizes. In 1845 a local shoemaker cut a white horse into Roundway Hill beneath the hill fort known as Oliver's Castle - to the west of the location of today's horse. This original horse was locally known as the "Snobs Horse", with the word "snobs" apparently being a local word for a shoemaker. It seems that the Snobs Horse only survived until around 1922, when it was eventually lost due to a lack of regular maintenance and slowly encroaching turf.

The ghost of the Snobs Horse can still occasionally be seen however, when the weather conditions are just right. The Snobs Horse was made using a technique called "trenching", where a trench is dug and filled with chalk to create the white horse. This approach is used when the local chalk is not sufficiently near the surface to enable the horse to be created by just peeling back the overlying turf. This trenching means that the chalk that formed the white horse is at a different level to the surrounding chalk, this enables parts of the long overgrown old white horse to be seen from time to time when the weather is just right. From these sightings it has been determined that the original Snobs Horse was about half of the size of the present day white horse.

So if you ever visit Devizes and see the current white horse, be sure to make the effort to go a little further west to Oliver's Castle and try to see if you can see any trace of the Snobs Horse. If you do I would love to see your pictures!

The Devizes Millennium White Horse in the distance.

Looking a bit grubby!

Pictures: Wiltshire (August 2015).

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