The Wiltshire Countryside is famous for its white horse chalk hill figures. It is thought that there have been 13 white horses in existence in Wiltshire, but only 8 are still visible today.
The oldest, largest and perhaps the most well known white horse in Wiltshire is carved into the chalk hillside across the border in Oxfordshire. Little is known of the history of the Uffington White Horse, but it is believed to have influenced the cutting of the subsequent Wiltshire horses.
The first of the Wiltshire white horses to appear was at Westbury in 878AD, although this figure is no longer visible as a new horse was cut on top in 1778. The most recent horse was cut on the hill above Devizes to celebrate the Millennium.
Westbury White Horse
This horse is located on the steep western slope of westbury Hill, below the Iron Age hill-fort of Bratton Camp. The first Westbury white horse is believed to have been cut to commemorate the victory over the Danes in the Battle of Ethandun (possibly nearby Edington) in 878AD. Local legend says that King Alfred commissioned the cutting of the horse, but had the designer beheaded soon after completion as the horse was said to be riding out of town, and should have been riding into town.
The original Westbury white horse was said to be very different in appearance to the horse that appears today. The earlier horse, if local sketches are to be believed, had short legs and a long heavy body, it wore a saddle and had a tail that pointed upwards.
In 1778, Lord Abingdon's steward, a Mr. George Gee took it upon himself to re-design the Westbury horse and changed the appearance of the landscape for ever more. The old horse was completely lost under this new design, and many branded Gee a Barbarian and vandal.
Restoration of this new figure took place in 1873 and again in 1903. In the 1950's the Blue Circle Cement Works located near by, concreted the horse.
The Westbury White Horse measures 182ft by 108ft and is best seen from the B3098 Westbury to Lavington road.
Ordnance Survey Grid reference: ST 898 516.
Cut in 1780 by Dr. Christopher Alsop (or the mad doctor as he was known locally) the Cherhill, or Oldbury, white horse measures 129ft by 142ft and is best viewed from the main A4 road between Calne and Beckhampton.
Dr Alsop is supposed to have shouted his instructions from the village by megaphone to the workman on the Cherhill Down, who planted white flags to mark the outline.
A unique attraction of the Cherhill horse was its eye. Measuring four feet in diameter, Aslop filled the eye with glass bottles embedded into the turf face down. This gave the effect that the eye was shimmering when the sun hit it and could be seen for miles around. By 1872 all the bottles had been stolen by tourists and souvenir hunters.
Ordnance Survey grid reference: SU 049 696.
Almost all traces of this first Pewsey horse have now disappeared, but it is believed that the horse carried a rider. The figure was thought to have been cut by a local farmer, Robert Pile.
The horse fell into neglect, and by the 1930s the chalk was no longer visible, but the outline of the head and body could just be made out.
Ordnance Survey grid reference: SU 171 580.
The Marlborough, or Preshute, horse lies in the grounds of Marlborough College and is the smallest known horse measuring just 61ft by 47ft.
The best view of the figure is from the main A4 road, between Marlborough and the village of Manton. The horse lies on the shallow slope of Grantham Hill just above the village of Preshute.
The horse was cut in 1804 by a party of boys from Mr. Greasley's academy. William Canning, a student at Mr Greasley's is said to have designed the horse, although there seems to be no real motive behind the making.
Ordnance Survey grid reference: SU 184 682.
Located between Milk Hill & Walkers Hill on the Pewsey Downs, the Alton Barnes horse is thought to have been cut by Robert Pile, the son of the creator of the Pewsey old horse, in 1812.
An artist by the name of John Thorne was selected to design and cut the horse on the hill above the village. He agreed to excavate the horse to a depth of one foot and fill the cavity with chalk, and was paid Ã‚Â£20 in advance for his trouble. Thorne employed a local man, John Harvey to do the work, but disappeared before the work was finished taking the Ã‚Â£20 with him.
The Alton Barnes horse faces south and measuries 165ft by 180ft. The figure is best viewed from the bridge on the Kennet and Avon canal one mile south of the horse , although it is also visible from the Horton to Alton Barnes road.
Ordnance Survey Grid reference: SU 106 637.
Broad Hinton / Hackpen
The Hackpen Horse was cut to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. Although little is known about the origins of the horse it is believed to have been cut by Henry Eatwell, Parish clerk of Broad Hinton and the local publican.
The horse measures 90ft by 90ft and is best viewed from the A361 between Avebury and Swindon at Broad Hinton.
Ordnance Survey Grid reference: SU 128 749.
Cut into the side of Roundway Hill just below Oliver's Castle, the Snobs, or Devizes horse is no longer visible, although local people say that in hot dry summers a different tone in the grass shows the shape of a horse.
The horse was cut at Whitsuntide in 1845 by the shoemakers of Devizes, or Snobs as they were known.
The figure soon fell into a state of neglect and by the 19th Century the turf had almost completely covered it. Several attempts were made to re-cut the horse, but all failed and in 1998 the last attempt was thwarted by the site being declared a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
A local farmer offered his land on Roundway Hill about a mile away and work started on a Millennium White Horse in August 1999.
Ordnance Survey grid reference: SU 000 645.
Ham Hill / Inkpen
Just inside the Wiltshire border near Ham Hill and the village of Inkpen, this hill figure thought to have been cut in the late 1860's is now completely lost.
The Ham Hill horse was designed and cut by the landowner, a Mr Wright, who had recently moved to Ham Spray House, a property with fantastic clear views onto the opposing Ham Hill.
Mr Wright created the horse by merely excavating the shape, he used no chalk infilling and when the property changed hands, the figure soon became lost as the new landowner had no desire to maintain the horse.
Ordnance Survey grid reference: SU 348 621.
Situated on the hill to the east of the village of Broad Town, this horse was completed in 1863 by a local farmer, William Simmonds.
Measuring 86ft by 61ft, it is rumoured that Mr Simmonds had desires to make the figure larger, but he gave up farming and this was never achieved. In subsequent years the horse fell into neglect and the lower parts of its legs became lost.
In 1991 the Broad Town White Horse Restoration Society was formed to maintain the horse and it was restored to its former glory. The best view of the horse is from the B4041 between Broad Hinton and Broad Town.
Ordnance Survey Grid reference: Su 098 783.
The second Pewsey horse was designed by George Marples, an authority in hill figures, and was cut by the Pewsey Fire Brigade in 1937 to commemorate the Coronation of George VI.
The horse is one of the smallest figures measuring 66ft by 45ft and is best viewed from the Pewsey to Amesbury A345 road.
Ordnance Survey grid reference: SU 171 580.
This horse was discovered in 1948, however its origin is not known. The figure emerged during ploughing on Rockley Down, and local people said that they had long been aware of a discolouration of the grass in that area.
Constant ploughing means that the horse has been eroded and has long since been lost to the land.
Ordnance Survey grid reference: SU 153 733.
Devizes Millennium Horse
Several attempts had been made to re cut the original Snobs horse, namely in 1909, 1939, 1954, 1977, 1979,1987 and 1998. The latter attempt was thwarted when the site was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
In 1999 a local farmer, Chris Combe, offered his land on Roundway hill, a mile from the original site and permission was granted by the Crown who own the land.
Peter Greed, a sixth form student at Devizes Grammar School in 1954, designed a horse for the unsuccessful re-cutting of the Snobs horse that year. It was this design that was chosen for the Millennium figure, although the direction in which the horse faces has been reversed.
A committee was set up to oversee the project, and the public invited to become members of the 'Cavaliers of the Devizes Millennium White Horse' - the group formed to support the project and its future maintenance.
The Millennium horse is best viewed from the A361 Swindon road, a mile north of Devizes.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference: SU 016 641.