Uffington White Horse

Uffington White Horse

Infobox Mountain
Name = Whitehorse Hill
Photo = White horse from air.jpg
Caption = The White Horse as seen from an altitude of 700 metres
Elevation = 261 m (856 ft)
Location = Oxfordshire, England
Range =
Prominence = 79 m
Coordinates =
OS "Landranger" 174
Type =
Age =
Last eruption =
First ascent =
Easiest route =
Grid_ref_UK = SU301866
Grid_ref_Ireland =
Listing = County Top
Translation =
Language =
Pronunciation =

The Uffington White Horse is a highly stylised prehistoric hill figure, 374 feet (110 m) long, cut into the turf of the upper slopes of White Horse Hill in the English civil parish of Uffington (Oxon, historically Berks). It is located some five miles south of the town of Faringdon and a similar distance west of the town of Wantage. The hill forms a part of the scarp of the Berkshire Downs and overlooks to Vale of White Horse to the north. Best views of the horse are obtained from directly across the Vale, particularly around the villages of Great Coxwell, Longcot and Fernham. The site is owned and managed by the National Trust.

History of the figure

The figure has been shown to date back some 3,000 years, to the Bronze Age, based on optically stimulated luminescence dating carried out following archaeological investigations in 1994. These studies produced three dates ranging between 1400 and 600 BC. Iron Age coins have been found that bear a representation of the Uffington White Horse, reinforcing the early dating of this artifact, thus further discounting alternative theories that the figure was created in the Early Middle Ages. [ [http://www.hows.org.uk/personal/hillfigs/uff/uffing.htm Uffington White Horse General Information National: Grid Ref SU SU 302 866] ] Numerous other prominent prehistoric sites are located nearby, notably Wayland's Smithy, a long barrow less than two kilometres to the west. It is the only chalk figure in the United Kingdom that scientists generally accept as being truly "prehistoric."Fact|date=May 2008

It has long been debated whether the chalk figure is intended to represent a horse or some other animal. However, it has been called a horse since the eleventh century at least. An Abingdon cartulary, written by monks on vellum, between 1072 and 1084, refers to "mons albi equi" at Uffington ("the White Horse Hill"). [Plenderleath, Rev. W. C., "The White Horses of the West of England" (London: Allen & Storr, 1892)]

The horse is thought to represent a tribal symbol perhaps connected with the builders of Uffington Castle. Due to the angle of the slope it is carved on, only a small part of the horse can be seen at a time by an observer standing on the ground, which indicates a religious or magical significance to the figure.Fact|date=May 2008 . Fact|date=May 2008

Up until the late 19th century the horse was scoured every seven years as part of a more general local fair held on the hill. However, when the regular cleaning is halted the figure quickly becomes obscured. It has always needed frequent work for the figure to remain visible.

Nearby features and recent events

The most significant nearby feature is the Iron Age Uffington Castle, located on higher ground atop a knoll above the White Horse [British Archaeology, Editor: Simon Denison, Issue no 33, April 1998 ISSN 1357-4442] . This hillfort comprises an area of approximately 3 hectares enclosed by a single, well preseved, bank and ditch.

To the west are ice-cut terraces known as the "Giant's Stair". [ [http://www.berkshirehistory.com/archaeology/white_horse.html Royal Berkshire History: The Uffington White Horse] ] farming, or alternatively were used for early farming after being formed by natural processes. The steep sided dry valley below the horse is known as the Manger and legend says that the horse grazes there at night.

The Blowing Stone, a perforated sarsen stone, which lies in a garden in Kingston Lisle, two kilometres away and which produces a musical tone when blown through, is thought possibly to have been moved from the White Horse site, in the year 1750. In August, 2002 the figure was defaced with the addition of a rider and three dogs by members of the "Real Countryside Alliance" (Real CA). The act was denounced by the Countryside Alliance. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2220725.stm BBC News report from 2002 on the White Horse] ]

The Uffington Horse in popular culture

Location map|Oxfordshire
label =
background = white
lat = 51.577432
long = -1.567
caption = Map sources for the Uffington White Horse at grid reference mmukscaled|SU301866|100|SU301866
float = right
width =185

*G. K. Chesterton's poem "The Ballad of the White Horse" gives a Christian interpretation to the continual scouring needed to maintain the impression in the chalk over the intervening millennia.
*Rosemary Sutcliff's book "Sun Horse, Moon Horse", a book for children, tells the story of the creator of the figure.
*Richard Doyle, a cartoonist and illustrator of Punch satirical magazine fame, illustrated the 1859 book "The Scouring of the White Horse" by Thomas Hughes, the author of "Tom Brown's Schooldays". The book mentions both the horse and the Blowing Stone.
*The design of the Uffington Horse was used as the album cover of the 1982 album "English Settlement" by English rock group XTC, who come from the nearby town of Swindon.
*The White Horse appears in the top right hand corner of the back of the Nirvana CD "In Utero".
*It also featured in the 1992 Vincent Ward-directed film "Map of the Human Heart".
*Kate Bush slides down White Horse Hill in the promo video for her 1985 hit, "Cloudbusting".
*It appears as a hill figure and as a silver necklace worn by Tiffany Aching in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel "A Hat Full of Sky". In this book, Granny Aching is reported (by Tiffany) to have said "Taint what a horse "looks" like, it's what a horse "be"
*The Uffington Horse is the symbol of Wessex Hall at the University of Reading, adopted in 1920 and still in use today.
*The Uffington White horse is often presented as an image of Epona in popular works on Neopaganism, based on stylistic similarity with horses depicted on Iron Age British and Gaulish coinage, although the dating makes this very unlikely. There may also be an assumption that Epona statues depicted a white horse (the colour is unknown and this seems to be a confusion with Rhiannon).
*Uffington Horse is also the name of a folk-rock group led by Heather Alexander, as well as the title of one of the songs on their first album, "Enchantment".
*The now defunct computer games developer Mythos Games used the horse as their company logo.
*The horse is the emblem of the Berkshire Yeomanry, a Territorial Army unit based in Windsor, Reading and Chertsey.
*The White Horse is mentioned throughout the book "This Is All" by Aidan Chambers.

See also

* Vale of White Horse
* Wayland's Smithy
* Chalk figures in the United Kingdom
* Dragon Hill, Uffington
* Blowingstone Hill
* Leucippotomy

In line references

General reference

* Dyer, J, "Discovering Prehistoric England, Shire, 2001, ISBN 0-7478-0507-5
* Miles, D. et al., Uffington White Horse and its Landscape: Investigations at White Horse Hill, Uffington, 1989-95 and Tower Hill, Ashbury, 1993-4, Oxford Archaeology, 2003, ISBN 0-947816-77-1
* Plenderleath, Rev. W. C., "The White Horses of the West of England" (London: Allen & Storr, 1892)

External links

* [http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-archaeology-uffington_white_horse.htm The National Trust - White Horse Hill]
* [http://www.pegasusarchive.org/ancientbritain/white_horse.htm Ancient Britain - The White Horse]
* [http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/majorsites/uffington.html Uffington Whitehorse and Dragon Hill]
* [http://www.someplacedifferent.co.uk/2007/08/uffington-white-horse.html The Uffington Whitehorse - Some Place Different]
* [http://www.hows.org.uk/personal/hillfigs/uff/uffing.htm Aerial photos and information]
* [http://wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk/uffington.html Wiltshire and Oxfordshire chalk horses]
* [http://www.berkshirehistory.com/archaeology/white_horse.html Royal Berkshire History: The Uffington White Horse]
* [http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&sll=51.602146,-1.55508&sspn=0.008796,0.020084&ie=UTF8&ll=51.57767,-1.566877&spn=0.0022,0.005021&t=h&z=18&iwloc=addr&om=1 Aerial view from Google Maps]

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