Moving the Osmington White Horse

With the weather taking a turn for the better, it sometimes feels like a real treat to spend a day working out of the office – much as I love our new building! Yesterday I was invited along to spend some time in the beautiful Dorset countryside working with a team from ITV West Country who were filming the work taking place on the Osmington White Horse.

The Osmington White Horse

The Osmington White Horse

The 200-year-old Weymouth monument to King George III on horseback is being renovated and returned to its original position and outline. It’s a story that has generated lots of interest among local people and ITV’s Duncan Sleighthome was keen to find out more for a local news programme.

The Osmington White Horse Society has been working on the renovation of the figure for over a year with help from Natural England and local Army and Navy units. However, Ordnance Survey and English Heritage have now been involved to make sure the outline positioning is as true to the original as possible.

The carving which is 280 feet long and 320 feet high originally took three months to complete. Although from a distance it doesn’t look that big, when you actually get up close – it’s huge and I’m not sure the photographs really do it justice! However, the integrity of the monument has been threatened with weed, scrub and weathering – not surprising really given it’s on a really steep hill and the wind blows a gale up there – even on a lovely spring day.

Jon Horgan being interviewed for ITV West Country.

Jon Horgan being interviewed for ITV West Country.

Interestingly, many groups have attempted to renovate the monument over time including civic minded citizens; WW1 Australian soldier volunteers; and in 1989 the ‘Challenge Anneka’ television programme. However, in spite of those efforts, there has been a marked deterioration in both the outline and substance of the monument.

Investigations by Stewart Ainsworth, Senior Architectural Investigator with English Heritage who previously worked for Ordnance Survey and appears regularly on Time Team, identified that the original outline could be recovered using an aerial photograph of the monument taken in 1947 and historic Ordnance Survey maps which show the best image of the original outline.

Measuring the White Horse

Measuring the White Horse

So yesterday, armed with GPS satellite technology, one of our Research Scientists, Jon Horgan, spent the day trying to identify the White Horse’s true, original location and is now processing all the data.Stay tuned for an update.

The next stage is setting out the correct position and it’s hoped to involve as many local people as possible. More information, some great pictures and updates are available on the Osmington Society blog.

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3 Responses

  1. What a fantastic project. I remember walking all around the white horse as a child growing up in Weymouth and have seen it in a variety of states of disrepair.

    With the Olympics coming to Weymouth and Portland next year it is the perfect time to make this historic landmark sparkle, and I think it is fantastic that you can use the archive of OS maps to position it as it was originally intended. I’m sure all the walkers on walk2012 will appreciate the efforts, and it will be great to have royalty walking with us briefly!

    1. The Olympics is one of the reasons that the Horse is being restored now. Should make a great sight for visitors next year when he’s restored to his full glory!

  2. Pingback : The history of the White Horse | The Breaker

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