The Westbury White Horse is one of Southern England’s best known hill carvings. Also known as the Bratton White Horse, this colossal carving measures over 30 metres from head to tail, and is one of many hill figures that can be found across Britain.
This one in particular is located a couple of kilometres east of Westbury, lying below an Iron Age hill fort on the Salisbury Plains, where it can be seen from approximately 30 kilometres in all directions.
It is the oldest of several white horse chalk carvings in southern England, with the earliest documentation of its existence dating to 1742. The carving was wholly restored in 1778, which is now thought to have destroyed a previous carving on the same spot as an 18th century engraving depicts the horse (which was also noticeably smaller) facing the opposite direction.
The origins of the carving are vague, with many enthusiasts claiming it was made to commemorate King Alfred’s victory at the Battle of Ethandun, which was fought only a few kilometres away in 878. However, there is no supporting evidence as to the carving existing that long ago.
Another theory is that the carving was made in honour of the new Protestant reign in the early 18th century (which is much closer to the first documentation), as the white horse was a symbol associated with the royal family, the House of Hanover, at the time.
A STRONG GESTURE
The carving has been defaced twice in recent years by unknown vandals. The first time was in 2003, when the words “Stop This War” were written across the body of the horse in yellow capitals to protest against the war in Iraq. The disfigurement was quickly removed, leaving the horse with a cleaner patch across its torso. In 2010, the figure fell victim to vandalism once again, with the word “wonkey” being tattooed across the neck of the horse. This was also removed, leaving the horse with a whiter neck for two years until the BBC declared it to be cleaned by April 2012, to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Spout Lane, Nr Seend, Melksham
Wiltshire, England, SN12 6RN
+44 (0)1380 828 839
- Address: Port Way, Westbury, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom, BA13 4SP
- GPS: 51.2659446,-2.1353776999999354
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: BA13 4SP
- Entrance Fees: Free Access (to viewing areas)
- Disabled Access: Fair (to viewing areas)
- Visibility from Road: Good
- Image Credits: Matthew Collingwood