Westbury White Horse

National Grid Ref ST 89845160

This horse unusual in facing right, was said to be cut within living memory in 1772 although the exact date is unknown suggestions have been made around 1700 or that the horse was Saxon.
It was lost in 1778 when it was completely covered by the larger second horse. It was 96' by 32' and was first documented in 1772 and a sketch of the horse at this time exists. It was a strange looking creature, with short stumpy legs, wide body, a forked tail and the horse carried a saddle.

Sketch of the first Westbury Horse as described by Gough in 1772

Sketch of the first Westbury Horse

Recently another image of the same horse has been discovered. It came from a map produced in 1773, they are very different and obviously one is incorrect. It has been suggested that Gough's horse has been reversed during the engraving, both by Plenderleath who in 1885 depicted both horses facing left and in 1949 by Marples.

1773 Map

Plenderleath's Sketch

Plenderleath's Sketch

Sketch of the first Westbury Horse - although quite poor reproduction

Sketch of the first Westbury Horse

A much better sketch of the first Westbury Horse by myself from the original map

My sketch

My sketch from the original map indicates a reasonable likeness to the horse of Gough and I agree with Marples and Plenderleath that these are the same horse and that Gough's engraver inadvertly reversing the plate. Differences in the horse are slight and could easily be attributed to foreshortening and viewing angles and the difficulties producing accurate engraving plates.

Mystery Solved?

Egdell, D. (1999) The Lost Horse of Westbury, 3rd Stone, 36, Oct-Dec