ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Travel and Places»
  • Travel Activities & Ideas

Uffington White Horse: Mysterious Places in Britain

Updated on December 2, 2016
 Aerial view from Paramotor of Uffington White Horse
Aerial view from Paramotor of Uffington White Horse | Source

Uffington White Horse is an awe inspiring site that can seen from miles away overlooking the head of a dry valley in Ridgeway Escarpment. It is the oldest of all of Britain's white horses by thousands of years and it is the oldest hill figure in Britain. Other chalk horses exist in Britain, but where these others were naturalistic figures, Uffington White Horse was formed from curving lines about 10 feet wide. This chalk horse has a length of 365 feet making it twice as long as the longest Wiltshire chalk horse. In good weather, this carving can be seen from up to 20 miles away. From the top of Dragon Hill, it can be seen up close but it is said that the best view is on top of Ridgeway Escarpment, three or four miles away from the carving. Whether or not the creators of this chalk carving intended it as a horse has been hotly debated but it has been known as such since medieval times. Manuscripts from the Abbey of Abington dated to around 1075, refers to the 'place known commonly as White Horse Hill' or 'locum qui vulgo mons albi equi nuncupator'.

Who Made the Uffington Chalk Horse?

Leucippotomy is an apparent ancient practice of carving horse figures into the chalk upland areas particularly as seen in Britain. At one time, due to Iron Age coins found near the site bearing an image of striking resemblance to the chalk horse, it was thought that the Uffington Chalk Horse was an Iron Age artefact built by an Anglo Saxon tribe. However:

  • a new dating technique developed in the mid-1990s called optical stimulated luminescence dating (OSL) which can show how long soil has been hidden from the sunlight has shed new light on the actual age of this landmark.
  • OSL testing of soil beneath the chalk has pinpointed the age of Uffington White Horse from between 1200 and 800 BC which makes its origin in the Bronze Age.
  • It has been suggested that it was built by people living in Uffington Castle, a nearby fortress of Bronze Age origin.
  • The image was cut into the upper slopes of White Horse Hill.
  • Deep trenches were dug and filled in with white, crushed chalk in a manner probably very similar to that used by similar tribes to build the trenches of Stonehenge and Avebury.
  • Avebury: Mysterious Places in Britain provides more detail on the methods and tools likely used by the prehistoric people in constructing this carving.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
White Horse, Uffington Taken on a visit by the Charney Manor primary geographers.Closeup shot of a few chalk lines of the Uffington White Horse. Dragon Hill on the background.Dragon Hill near Uffington. This hill on the eastern side of "The Manger", is in the north western section of the square, here viewed from the white horse, looking more or less north west.The Manger viewed from Whitehorse Hill The Manger is a dry coombe below the Uffington White Horse which was formed at the end of the last ice age.Entrance to Wayland's Smithy
White Horse, Uffington Taken on a visit by the Charney Manor primary geographers.
White Horse, Uffington Taken on a visit by the Charney Manor primary geographers. | Source
Closeup shot of a few chalk lines of the Uffington White Horse. Dragon Hill on the background.
Closeup shot of a few chalk lines of the Uffington White Horse. Dragon Hill on the background. | Source
Dragon Hill near Uffington. This hill on the eastern side of "The Manger", is in the north western section of the square, here viewed from the white horse, looking more or less north west.
Dragon Hill near Uffington. This hill on the eastern side of "The Manger", is in the north western section of the square, here viewed from the white horse, looking more or less north west. | Source
The Manger viewed from Whitehorse Hill The Manger is a dry coombe below the Uffington White Horse which was formed at the end of the last ice age.
The Manger viewed from Whitehorse Hill The Manger is a dry coombe below the Uffington White Horse which was formed at the end of the last ice age. | Source
Entrance to Wayland's Smithy
Entrance to Wayland's Smithy | Source

Why was Uffington White Horse Created?

There are many theories explaining the origin and mystery of Uffington White Horse. Horses were very important to the Bronze Age culture at the time as humans were first starting to ride them.

  • It may have been a mark of territorial ownership.
  • It may have been an emblem of a local tribe.
  • It may have been made as a battle memorial or a cult symbol.
  • Perhaps it was a horse traders' advertisement.
  • It may have been used as a sign or homage to the ancient horse-goddesses since the Celts in Gaul worshipped the horse-goddess Epona and in Britain, her counterpart Rhiannon was worshipped possibly by the local Belgae tribe.
  • It may also have been cut by the worshippers of the sun-god Belinos or Belenus who was also associated with horses.

Maintenance of the Uffington Chalk Horse

Over its 3000 year history, this horse has never been forgotten. The grass grows over it quickly and yet it still exists as a testament to the handiwork of our ancient ancestors.

  • Every seven to ten years it requires scouring.
  • This regular renovation work has been accomplished by the local population.
  • In past eras, the site was ritually scoured under the jurisdiction of the local Lord who provided the funds.
  • It became a three day festival of fun and games, which took place in the neighbouring Uffington Castle, along with the restoration of the chalk carving.
  • This festival which likely had ancient origins only died out about 100 years ago and fortunately, the regular restoration has been taken over by members of the English Heritage Society.
  • Although the regular scourings have altered the image somewhat, the fact that the skeleton of the image is a metre-deep chalk-filled trench has prevented it from drifting too far from its origins.

Read some fictional accounts of the Uffington White Horse

Folklore and Legends surrounding the Uffington White Horse

  • The Uffington horse has been connected to King Alfred who is thought to have had it carved to commemorate his victory against the Danes in 871.
  • It has also been told that Hengist, a 5th century Anglo Saxon leader had it carved.
  • Legend suggests that the Uffington white horse is a mare and at night she and her invisible foal come down to graze on the lower slope known as the manger and to drink at Woolstone Well which it is said was formed by the mare's hoof print.
  • One bit of folklore suggests that standing on the eye of the Uffington mare and turning around three times with closed eyes while making a wish will cause the wish to come true.
  • Nearby Dragon Hill, legend states, is where St. George, the patron saint of England, killed the dragon. It is thought by some that the Uffington chalk carving is the legendary site where the dragon fell, spilling its blood and the carving itself is actually a representation of the dragon killed by St. George.
  • Legend says that King Arthur is not dead but merely sleeping and when England is in grave peril, he will rise up and fight again for England. When Arthur wakens, the Uffington horse will also rise up and dance on Dragon Hill.
  • Nearby Wayland Smithy is a prehistoric sight associated with Wayland or Wolund, a germanic smith god. Legend says that once every 100 years, the Uffington horse gallops across the sky to Wayland who reshods him in his smithy.

Uffington White Horse Chalk Carving

A markerUffington White Horse, Dragon Hill Road -
Dragon Hill Rd, Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7, UK
get directions

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Teresa Coppens profile image
      Author

      Teresa Coppens 20 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Interesting. More mysteries in this world than we can explain!

    • profile image

      Helen Parks 2 years ago

      What people fail to notice in the cropped images always shown - is that there is a cross engraved in front of the glyph - and together they make up Sagittarius constellation

    • Teresa Coppens profile image
      Author

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for the feedback and that you enjoyed the read! There will be more to come in this series. Hope you come back to check for more mysterious places!

    • Practical Paws profile image

      Debra Hine 6 years ago from Longueuil, Quebec

      Great information - I really enjoy reading the answers to questions that quite often pop into my head when I see a picture or drive by something that nobody seems (initially) to know how it got there. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image
      Author

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'm with you onegreenparachute! That's why I love this series and intend to keep adding to it. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well.

    • onegreenparachute profile image

      Carol 6 years ago from Greenwood, B.C., Canada

      oooh! There's nothing better than a real-life ancient mystery!! Thanks Teresa - great research and pictures.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image
      Author

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'm saving mine too. I haven't visited these places yet but they are on my bucket list and hopefully I'm able to share them with my boys. The research for all these mysteries of Britain has benn amazing!

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 6 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      So amazing... I wish I could see all these things you write about in person. Maybe I'd better start saving my quarters instead of just pennies! Thank you. :)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)