The White Horse hill figure 170m NNE of Uffington Castle on Whitehorse Hill

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1008413
Date first listed:
13-Dec-1929
Date of most recent amendment:
05-Dec-1995

Map

Ordnance survey map of The White Horse hill figure 170m NNE of Uffington Castle on Whitehorse Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:
Oxfordshire
District:
Vale of White Horse (District Authority)
Parish:
Uffington
National Grid Reference:
SU 30117 86633

Reasons for Designation

Prehistoric 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. All 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 soilmarks in dry periods. Prehistoric hill figures are often interpreted as religious symbols, perhaps representing gods or totems. Very few prehistoric hill figures have been recorded and all surviving examples are regarded as nationally important.

The Uffington White Horse is one of the best known and striking examples of its class and has been shown by recent geophysical survey to have undergone a number of changes during its life. It forms part of an unusual group of prehistoric and later monuments which, taken as a whole, will provide a rare insight into the religious and secular use of the landscape over nearly four thousand years.

Details

The monument includes the chalk cut hill figure of a horse known as the `White Horse' situated 170m NNE of Uffington Castle on Whitehorse Hill. The figure occupies a thirty degree angled west facing slope which can be seen from a distance of several miles.

The monument appears as the side view of a stylised horse with its head to the right. The horse measures c.111m in length from tail to ear and c.40m high. At its head there is a feature which is known as the `beak' and this has been shown by recent geophysical survey to have been altered quite considerably in shape. The horse was consolidated as it now appears in 1936 and spent a short period covered over during World War II, to prevent enemy pilots from using it as a navigational aid.

The first documentary record of the horse is from the 12th century when it was made clear that the area had become known as White Horse Hill in the reign of William I (1066-1087). The horse is associated with St George and the Dragon in local tradition, hence the name of the nearby Dragon Hill. Although the horse could be Anglo-Saxon in origin, it is more generally believed to be Iron Age in date, making it contemporary with the hillfort to the south. A scouring festival, every seven years, was practised from at least 1677 until the late 18th century. The origin of this festival may go back to the original creation of the monument.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number:
21785
Legacy System:
RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Clayton, P, Archaeological Sites of Britain, (1976), 76-77
Grinsell, L V, Archaeology of Wessex, (1958)
Other
Ancient Monuments Terrier, HBMC , Uffington Castle, White Horse and Dragon Hill, (1984)
Description of monuments, Grinsell, L V, White Horse Hill, (1939)
Discussion of monuments and folklore, POCOCK., The Mystery of White Horse Hill, (1965)
OXON PRN 7302, C.A.O., HILL FIGURE - WHITE HORSE, (1990)
With S. Palmer, JEFFERY, P.P., DISCUSSION ON SITE, (1993)

Legal

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 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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