It was a letter to the local newspaper, in August 1998, by a newcomer to Devizes, Sarah Padwick suggesting that a chalk hill figure be cut in Roundway Down to commemorate the Millennium which instigated this successful project.
Unknown to her, there had previously been a hill figure cut on Roundway Down. It was cut in 1845 and was in the form of a horse, but has long since been overgrown. This was on the escarpment to the south of Oliver's Camp and cut by the shoemakers apprentices in 1845. It was known as Snob's Horse. Snob being the local term for shoemaker.
Many attempts have been made to reinstate this original chalk figure, namely in 1909, 1939, 1954, 1977, 1979, 1987 and 1998.
Peter Greed, a sixth form student at Devizes Grammar School, was one of the students in 1954 led by James Smith, the then Head Boy, who researched the Snob's Horse. Peter at that time drew up full detailed plans for the re-cutting of the horse. The present attempt to re-cut Snob's Horse was thwarted by the site being declared a site of special scientific interest.
However Chris Combe, a local farmer, offered his land on Roundway Hill as an alternative site, provided permission was granted by the Crown Estates Commissioners, who own the land. Wiltshire County Council Tourism welcomed the project as did Roundway Parish Council who supported the successful planning application made to the Kennet District Council.
The design of the White Horse is that drawn-up in 1954, but the direction in which the horse faces has been reversed. The new horse thus differs from the other Wiltshire White Horse hill figures in that it faces to the right and depicts a moving horse.
A committee was set up to oversee the project, and the public invited to become members of the 'Cavaliers of the Devizes Millennium White Horse' - the group formed to support the project and its future maintenance.
Alan Truscott of Sarsens Housing Association joined the committee in charge of the surveying and pegging out of the horse figure, as did Keith Saunders of Pearce Civil Engineering who provided the machinery and manpower to complete the clearing of the top soil and the infilling of the chalk following the cutting of the outline by hand by various groups and individuals from the local community. "Torrential rain and gales could not dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of the c. 200 people who took part in the cutting of the outline."
It is anticipated that this project will promote the town of Devizes, its ancient heritage and attractive surrounding countryside; and will provide an additional feature for the tourist map of the area.
At noon on Millennium Eve a Time Capsule will be buried within the body of the White Horse. This will be followed by an Act of Dedication by the Rev Brian Tigwell, concluding with the Lord's Prayer.
Later, in the evening, Pearce Civil Engineering have arranged for the new White Horse to be flood-lit. It should be sight most worthy of the commencement of a new millennium.
Facts & Figures
Bank Field, Roundway Hill
Ordnance survey reference : - SU 016641
Dimensions of the White Horse
length : 45.7 metres height : 45.0 metres
Route to the White Horse
From Devizes, follow the A361 towards Swindon. Turn left at the sign, Roundway Garden Industrial Estate, and follow Folly Road towards Roundway Hill - on entering Roundway take the right-hand fork at the telephone box and again the right-hand fork at the next junction. Bank Field is the field at the top of the rise on the right. There is a stile for public access to the field. It is possible from the Vale of Pewsey to see both the Alton Barnes and the Devizes White Horses, facing each other.
Aug 1998 Initial letter to the press
7 Dec 1998 Setting up of working group
19 Mar 1999 Planning application
29 Apr 1999 Planning permission granted
6 Jul 1999
- Setting up of committee and constitutions
31 Jul 1999 Main survey points sited
28 Aug 1999 Pegging-out of the outline
18-19 Sept 1999 Cutting the outline
20-29 Sept 1999
- Pearce Civil Engineers on site
29 Sept 1999 Completion
Chairman, Project Manager and Designer
Vice chairman and Publicity
Secretary and Instigator
Alan Truscott - Sarsens Housing Association Surveying
Keith Saunders - Pearce Civil Engineers Engineering on site
Rev Brian Tigwell
'Cavaliers' membership secretary
Sponsored by, and without whose help the project could not have proceeded:-
Crown Estates Commissioners
Pearce Civil Engineering
Community groups participating in the cutting the outline:-
Devizes Army Cadet Corps Platoon
Devizes Fire Brigade
Devizes Girl's Brigade
Devizes and Mid Wilts Scout Group
Sarcen Housing Association
Bishop Cannings CE Primary
St. Peters CE Primary
If you would like to support this project by becoming a member of the 'Cavaliers of the Devizes Millennium White Horse'. Please contact -
Donna Hutchinson, Pennyghael, 2 Stitchings Lane, Hilcott, Pewsey, SN9 6LD.
Tel : 01672 851104