Kilburn White Horse

In Conjunction with The Kilburn White Horse Association


General Information

National Grid Ref SE 5142 8129

Aerial Pic

This is Britain's largest white horse in surface area, covering just over an acre (designed at 314 long and 228 high it is however currently 318 and 220 high). It is situated on the SSW facing steep slope of Roulston Scar, just near the top. This is just north of Kilburn village, from which the horse can be easily seen. The best view is like many of the figures from the air, but the best ground view is from two benches situated just inside the village boundary, marked by a sign near Stockings house on the road from Balk. This elevated position allows the best overall view of the horse although slightly further than ideal. The horse is in good overall condition, with some erosion control particularly on the tail which had been recently been whitened. The top edge and head were not well defined but were being renewed with small chalk pieces approx. 1" in diameter on one of my recent visits. To visit the horse, leave Kilburn village towards Bracken hill, and follow the road up the hill (1:4), pass the first car park, carry on up the hill to the second car park from which the horse can easily be seen. There is a memorial to the renovation of the horse in 1925 here next to the path that leads up the steep slope to the top which is about 250m above sea level. There is also easy access from the Cleveland way which passes by the horse.

History.

This is the most northerly of all the chalk figures, the underlying surface is a greyish limey sandstone rock (Jurrassic.) This is covered with a thin overlay of this rock and this in turn is covered with chalk which turn grey and break up. which has led to the greyish colouration sometimes seen. It was finished on 4th November 1857 by local volunteers. School master John Hodgson (A friend of Thomas Taylor) and his pupils marked the horse. Thomas Taylor who was obviously influenced by the Wiltshire horses on his business travels south organised and paid for the construction of the horse. The original drawing was drawn by the artist Harrison Weir, and a copy with Hodgson's notes and measurements can be seen below, 31 men cleared the horse, the exposed scree was then whitewashed. There was no endowment to scour the horse and public funds were used to renew the horse after his death. The horse was badly damaged by a hail storm in 1896 and fell into disrepair after the first world war. It was renewed in 1925 following a campaign in the Yorkshire Evening Post which is commemorated by the memorial in the car park. The horse was kept in reasonable condition until it was covered in 1939. It was uncovered and whitened in 1946, a storm in 1949 almost destroyed the horse yet again. Local mouse furniture maker Robert Thompson was prominent in keeping the horse well groomed until his death in 1955. A white horse restoration fund was setup and later this became the White Horse Association, which looks after the horse today in conjunction with local farmers. The future of this horse has been secured but during its life it has nearly been lost many times like so many of the other figures.

The Kilburn White Horse Association

The Kilburn whitehorse association is a registered charity which raises funds for the maintenance and preservation of the horse. There is a committee of 16 local residents who form the association. At the present time it receives no support public funds or from English heritage which has declined to be involved. Donations from the general public and local organisations are welcomed and an appeal started in 1995 has been quite successful to date.

The sheer size of the figure and its steep and unstable surface make it both difficult and expensive to maintain and for the same reasons a coating of weatherproof substance such as has been applied to some of the figures in southern England would be enormously expensive and could not be guaranteed to stay in place. Even so new weatherproof coatings are being evolved and it is the association's hope is that someday a durable and affordable material will emerge which will solve the association's problems for good. Suggestions from any company marketing such a substance will be gratefully received.

The association has published a book on the subject

Kilburn and its horse. by J. Thorpe foreword by James Herriot. The first edition

First Edition Book Cover

A second edition has just been published and it is obtainable from the Association at the above address.

Second Edition Book Cover

Sketch Map of the Area

Location Map of the Hackpen Horse

Original Plan

Original Plan

The Kilburn Horse Memorial.

The Kilburn Horse Memorial

An Aerial photo of the horse.

Aerial photo of the horse

Aerial Pic

Reproduced with kind permission of Dae Sasitorn and Adrian Warren - www.lastrefuge.co.uk

Photo Gallery

References

Most of the information has been researched myself, but thanks go to John Roberts and Fred Banks of the Kilburn White Horse Association for supplying some of the information and pictures.

RCHME Historic Monument Ref SE58SW42

Thorpe, J. (1995) Kilburn and its horse. Kilburn: Kilburn White Horse Assn.

Bergamar, K. (1968) Discovering Hill Figures. 1st edn. Princes Risborough: Shire.

Bergamar, K. (1986) Discovering Hill Figures. 3rd edn. Princes Risborough: Shire.

Bergamar, K. (1997) Discovering Hill Figures. 4th edn. Princes Risborough: Shire.

Maples, M. (1981) White Horses and Other Hill Figures. 2nd edn. Stroud: Alan Sutton.

Newman, P. (1987) Gods and Graven Images: The Chalk Hill-Figures of Britain. 2nd edn. London: Robert Hale.

Produced with the aid and approval of the Kilburn White Horse Association