This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Hill figure called The Giant

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Hill figure called The Giant

List entry Number: 1003202


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: West Dorset

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Cerne Abbas

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 15-Oct-1924

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM - OCN

UID: DO 27

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Hill figures are large scale depictions of some kind of symbol, design or motif, generally in animal form, created by cutting away turf and subsoil to create a visual contrast with the surrounding grassland. They are usually best seen from some distance away, or from the air. Some examples are believed to have originated in the Iron Age but the appearance of some has been altered in later periods. Some examples remain as obvious white figures in chalk or limestone. Those that have not been maintained may be recognised either as slight earthworks or as soil marks in dry periods. Hill figures are often interpreted as religious symbols, perhaps representing gods or totems. They are a rare and striking monument class. Although the exact date of the hill figure called The Giant is not known with certainty its importance and function is attested in folklore and academic or scientific debate. It is unique amongst hill figures and instantly recognised as an image both nationally and internationally.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a hill figure situated on the steep west facing slopes of Giant Hill, overlooking the valley of the River Cerne. It is known by various names including 'The Giant', the 'Cerne Abbas Giant', the 'Rude Man' and the 'Rude Giant'. The hill figure survives as a 0.6m deep turf-cut outline filled with crushed chalk of an up to 55m high and 51m wide naked man. The figure is bearing a knotted club in his right hand. His left arm is extended and the figure seems to be striding towards the left. Various anatomical details are depicted including facial features, nipples, ribs and phallus. Various studies have concluded that the figure has changed over time and in 1996 it was suggested a cloak had originally been held on the left arm and the figure stood over a disembodied head. A further survey in 2008 re-confirmed the position of the cloak or animal skin and also suggested the erect penis was in fact the result of merging a smaller penis with a representation of his navel during a Victorian re-cut. The earliest written reference was made in 1694, when the Cerne Abbas churchwarden's accounts required three shillings to re-cut the giant. The first published survey was in 1764 and in 1774 John Hutchins claimed the figure had only been carved in the previous century. The debate concerning the figure has been wide ranging. Early antiquarians linked it with the Saxon God 'Helis'. Stukeley suggested it was 'Hercules' which is more generally supported and could perhaps imply a Romano-British origin. Others believe it was originally carved during the English Civil War by servants of Denzil Holles as a parody of Oliver Cromwell, referred to mockingly as 'England's Hercules' by his contemporary enemies. The subsequently revealed cloak added further support to the interpretation of the figure as Hercules and seemed to corroborate 19th century sources which had stated that figures, thought to represent Cenric son of Cuthred the King of Wessex, had been depicted between his legs. Folklore has steeped the Giant with many further interpretations including a suggestion that it represents the corpse of a real giant, or a Danish invader who was beheaded by the people of Cerne Abbas as he slept on the hillside. Various Victorian legends pertained to fertility being improved by couples who followed certain acts surrounding the figure. The giant is periodically repaired with loose chalk tamped down by hand. Further archaeological remains in the immediate vicinity are scheduled separately.

Sources: HER:- PastScape Monument No:-199015

Selected Sources

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details

National Grid Reference: ST 66649 01679


© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1003202 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 21-Jul-2018 at 03:25:17.

End of official listing