Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal visited the newly-restored Osmington White Horse near Weymouth to celebrate the monument 204 years after its creation to honour King George III – her great, great, great, great grandfather yesterday.
The monument was created in 1808 as a tribute to King George III who was sadly unable to return to Weymouth to acknowledge it due to illness. The Princess will now return to visit the monument and recognise the work put in by many volunteers to restore it as closely to the original in time for the 2012 Olympics when the monument will be seen by millions of people watching the TV coverage of the Olympic sailing held in Weymouth.
The monument which stands 85 metres long and nearly 100 metres high had been steadily deteriorating and the outline had become degraded due to encroachment by plants and weathering.
The Osmington Restoration Group was set up in 2009 with the ambition of restoring the monument to its original and preventing further deterioration. With a grant from Natural England, and help from local organisations and individuals, together with research and technical expertise by Ordnance Survey and English Heritage, work began in July 2010.
Each stage raised its own challenges. These ranged from having to remove 160 tonnes of superfluous stone without jeopardising the surrounding site of special scientific interest, having to work in all weathers on a steep hillside, and determining the original outline after much change over the years.
Research was needed across widely disparate sources including oil paintings from the period, old photographs and Ordnance Survey maps, on-site analysis of earthworks, and the use of the latest GPS and mapping technologies. The interactive use of such a combination of sources is believed to have broken new ground in this type of restoration.
Geoff Codd, Chairman of the Osmington Restoration Group said:
“We are delighted to have achieved so much and are grateful for the support and involvement of so many groups and individuals from the local community and further afield. We are delighted that The Princess has been able to finally come to see the monument to her great, great, great, great Grandfather and recognise the efforts that everyone has put in, during this Jubilee year and ahead of the Olympics when the monument will be seen around the world.”
Dr Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director General and Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey added:
“This project shows how we can use modern technology to revisit the past. By looking at old photographs of the White Horse as well as historical mapping, we were able to use GPS to identify the precise outline of the original monument. Working with English Heritage, we were able to transfer this onto the ground to enable the team to cut the turf to the exact outline to recreate the original monument. Given the scale of the project and the steepness of the hill, it’s been a great an achievement.”