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Monday, 16 April 2012

Westbury White Horse


I was rather sad when I discovered that the Westbury White Horse is made of CONCRETE  -- apparently it was concreted over many years ago, to protect the chalk surface!  Now the concrete is being steam cleaned in time for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics......... in such a manner do our icons get dragged into the world of commercialism and hype.

For what it's worth, if you were to ask me where I think it most likely that the Irish Sea Glacier skidded to a halt on its last visit, it would be somewhere near Westbury........... with the ice pressing against the scarp slope and maybe spilling over the plateau somewhere near the horse.  Fieldwork, anybody?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-17714006

Now that I do a bit more research, I find that the beast is a real hybrid:

"The horse was cut in 1778 by Mr Gee who replaced the old horse with a more modern beast. The current horse is larger and faces left and its body completely covers the first horse. It was restored in 1853 and 1872. It was edged in stone 1873. Significant changes were made to the shape in 1903 and 1936. It was covered during the war and following its uncovering it was concreted. (1957) This was repeated in 1995. The horse is cared for by English Heritage. The extreme method of restoring this horse was used due the the continued erosion of the horse because of the steepness of the slope."

9 comments:

Jon Morris said...

Surprisingly, concrete was a material developed in the neolithic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiftahel

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah -- so that's all right then!! Thanks Jon...

Tony Hinchliffe said...

What exactly would your fieldwork involve, Brian? Would you want the plateau near the Horse pored over with a fine - toothed comb?

Ironically, I am just about to get involved in a Heritage Lottery - Funded project set up by the Westbury Heritage Society, but they have already decided on 12 sites of historic interest in and around Westbury, so they can't get involved in your potential project just now.

Tony H said...

How did the White Horse of Westbury come to be inscribed on the chalk below Bratton Iron Age Hillfort? Read Bernard Cornwell's ripping yarn, "the Pale Horseman", to find out. Bernard writes historical novels set in the 9th Century, during King Alfred The Great's time, from the viewpoint of a young man, born English, but brought up by the Vikings. The A.D. 878 Battle of Ethandune is writ large in this particular book. Cornwell's historical detailing has been praised.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Tony -- interesting info! Good to hear of your new project. My "project" would just involve keeping an eye open for any strange stones or boulders in places where they might not be expected -- it's a long shot, but you never know.......

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Talking of long shots, one would be perilously close to the firing and testing range of the Army's Salisbury Plain Training Area (just south of the Westbury White Horse and then the Bratton Iron Age Hill Fort)!!

Curious to think that, if your theory about where the Irish Sea glacier possibly "skidded to a halt" and potentially spilled its bluestone erratic cargo is correct, then King Alfred The Great and his swiftly assembled troops from Hampshire, Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire may have walked past/ over a few of the aforesaid bluestone erratics (varying greatly in size from stone chips to massive boulders) on his probable march roughly northwards along the Plain's edge from somewhere near Battlesbury Hill, near Warminster, towards Bratton Camp, beyond Westbury, where, it is nowadays surmised, Guthrum and his Vikings were encamped, having themselves marched there from Chippenham.

King Alfred was, of course, a well-educated and learned man who later recruited Asser from St David's. Not sure how good his geological knowledge was!

chris johnson said...

Hey Brian,
I think it very positive that you put forward a "straw man" on the glaciation theory. It shows where we can look for evidence.

Even more helpful would be a dummies guide to finding bluestones such that Tony's volunteers, or even myself, could stick their hand up reliably while walking the territory.

By the way, I wrote to editor of BA on the need to revisit the glaciation hypothesis and did not receive an answer. They published earlier this year that Ixer's work had finally put paid to the glaciation theory - something which is clearly not supported, also by Rob Ixer. I did not receive a reply.

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology, has been, on the whole, pretty even-handed in his treatment of the two main bluestone transportation hypotheses (glaciation or man) in British Archaeology magazine. But we shall have to keep an eye on him to ensure his neutrality in the debate, Chris.

But he managed to do a very good objective job in his account of the long-term archaeological research at the henges of Avebury & Stonehenge in his "Hengeworld" (2000), for instance.

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Mike Pitts, aforementioned editor of BA [British Archaeology], also has a website:-

http://www.mike pitts.wordpress.com

Quite a useful site to visit.