Westbury White Horse
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: The oldest hill figure in Wiltshire
The short answer is that we don't know, but it is most likely just over 300 years old. It is easy to assign a prehistoric - or at least a pre-Christian - date to hill figures, but most are of post-medieval origin. As for Westbury's horse, the first written records suggest that the horse was carved from the chalk slope of Bratton Hill in the late 17th century. It is thought to commemorate King Alfred the Great's victory over the Danes at Ethandun (The Battle of Edington), which took place near Bratton Camp in 878AD. There are written records from 1742, but antiquarian John Aubrey, writing in the late 17th century, makes no mention of the horse, so it seems safe to assume that the horse was created after Aubrey and prior to 1742.
Popular mythology during the 17th-19th century associated the Saxons with bringing Christianity to Britain. We're not quite sure how such a story developed, but it probably goes back to the oldest white horse in Britain, at Uffington, in Oxfordshire. Folk tales suggested that the Saxons had created the Uffington horse to celebrate a victory over the pagan Danes. So white horses became associated with every real or imagined Saxon victory over the pagan Danes. At Westbury the horse was a mark of the Christian Alfred's triumph over the pagan Danes under Guthrun.
In 1778 the original horse was recut, perhaps under the direction of Mr Gee, who surveyed the parish for the Earl of Abingdon.
There are two ways to visit the white horse. One is via Newtown and Long River Road, signposted from the centre of Westbury. This leads up to Bratton Camp, and a parking area inside the outer earthworks of the hillfort. From the parking area there is a level walk to an observation terrace with several benches and an information panel. You can walk right along the top of the horse and stand beside the horse's ear to look down the figure itself. However, to actually get the best view of the horse from straight on, your best bet is a layby and parking area on north side of the B3098 at OS grid ST885516.
About Westbury White Horse
Address: Port Way, Bratton Road, Westbury, Wiltshire, England, BA13 3EP
Attraction Type: Prehistoric Site
Location: Park as for Bratton Camp, signposted from Bratton and Westbury, off the B3098, I mile south-west of Bratton. Free parking and an observation point with information panels.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Bratton Camp - 0.1 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Bratton, St James Church - 1 miles (Historic Church)
Edington Priory Church - 2 miles (Historic Church)
Old Dilton, St Mary's Church - 3.1 miles (Historic Church)
Steeple Ashton Church - 3.4 miles (Historic Church)
Chapel of St Lawrence, Warminster - 4.3 miles (Historic Church)
Imber, St Giles Church - 4.6 miles (Historic Church)
Cley Hill Hillfort - 5.6 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Nearest Accommodation to Westbury White Horse: