Featured Location Guide
A large horse with rider on Osmington Hill, facing due south
and looks out over Weymouth Bay. It is near the village of Osmington, east of
Weymouth, was cut into limestone, and whitened with chalk. The steep slope
allows some of the limestone to be washed off and trails run down the hill.
of a slide show
horse is best seen from the A353, a farm track opposite the Caravan Park offers a
parking spot in a good position. It can be seen for miles around.
This huge horse was cut in 1808, or possibly a little earlier,
is elegant and large 280' long and 323' high. It is one of the only four horses
to face right.
A report in The
Universal Magazine in 1808 said "An equestrian figure of His Majesty has lately
been formed in the chalk on Osmington Hill...".
It is the only horse with a
rider, representing King George III, who regularly visited Weymouth, and made it 'the first
resort', riding on his horse. There is a legend that King George was offended that the figure was riding
out of Weymouth, a sign that he was not welcome, and never returned, but he as
not well at this time and later may just have not been up to making the
journey again. The horse was to commemorate the Royal visits to the area and the
prosperity they brought. Mr Wood the book seller directed the construction at
the expense and request of John Ranier, brother of Admiral Nelson.
The King never saw the chalk figure since it was not cut until
three years after his last visit to the town. One version says the figure was
added after his death.
Other stories and variations include:-
- That it was cut by a soldier in the early 19th century to
commemorate the visits paid to Weymouth by King George III and his brother,
the Duke of Gloucester from 1789.
- That the work was done by a group of engineers, stationed
in Weymouth when the fear of a Napoleonic invasion was at its height. This is
linked to the mention of the horse in Thomas Hardy's "The Trumpet Major",
where it is said to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar.
- In 1807 by soldiers to pass the time while awaiting
Napoleon's invasion. It measures 260ft from the scarf like tail to the tip of
its ear. George III and friends had visited Weymouth, then a
fishing port, in 1793, liked it, even bathing from a machine on the beach, so
the port became popular as a fashionable resort. The townspeople grew wealthy
and in honour of the King the inhabitants added the representation of George
to the horse.
- The other possibility is that the people of Weymouth
commissioned the horse. This could certainly be its origin - the town was
extremely conscious of the value of the King's visits.
- According to the Dorset official guide, the figure was
already cut by 1807, and the figure of the King was simply added around 1815
as a gesture of appreciation for the Royal visits, but this does not line up
with the earlier 1808 publication.
- It is said that a Mr Wood, who created the figure,
committed suicide when he realised that he had portrayed the King with his
back to his beloved Weymouth. Unfortunately the King had made his last trip to
the town and was never to see the monument.
- According to a
on a historians comments, Weymouth residents might be disappointed to hear that
George III didn't go to the seaside town for his holidays. In fact, the first
time the King visited was on his Grand Tour of the South West. He only chose
to stop in Weymouth because the Duke of Gloucester had a residency nearby. The
King didn't bathe, and in fact was forced to leave in a hurry after a failed
assassination attempt. His subsequent visits to the town were prompted by a
need to put down the unruly Republicans. Not, sadly, to admire the seafront.
.... also the famous White Horse on Osmington Hills just outside Weymouth
shouldn't be white at all, the picture is supposed to depict the king on his
favourite grey charger.
According to Dorset life magazine
Historians have confused the issue by claiming the figure as the Duke of
Wellington or attributing it to a descendant of Sir John Arrow Kempe, who was
emphatic that his grandfather had cut it in about 1820 ‘after the King’s death,
as a memorial’. In fact it dates from a decade earlier. Thomas Oldfield
Bartlett from Swanage noted in his diary on 24 August 1808 that on the
hillside ‘is an image cut out presenting King George the 3rd on horseback’
which ‘takes up an acre of ground’. Just five days earlier, Weymouth
bookseller John Wood had sent the antiquary, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the
drawing of a flanged bronze axe ‘discovered in cutting out an equestrian
figure of the King in the side of Osmington Hill’.
The small village of Osmington has narrow streets lined with picturesque
thatched cottages. Osmington was also where the artist John Constable spent his
3 month honeymoon with his friend
Reverend John Fisher. His
pictures of Weymouth Bay and Osmington were the
result of that visit. A short distance to the SE of the village is the deserted
Mediaeval village of West
Ringtead, a site considered to be of national importance, it is visible
to us now as a series of settlements and earthworks in the landscape.
Osmington White Horse, Dorset
To visit the figure take the road up through
Preston, and Sutton Poytz, turn right at the crossroads, and after a short
distance the road bears left and a track goes straight on, take this track
Walk from where you have parked, on along the track, keeping right
(straight on) at the major junction and past the trig point, and the tumuli.
After passing a steel gate on the track the horse is on the right. There are
many footpaths and routes from Poxwell, Osmington and Preston are all
Things To Do,
See and Photograph:
White horse, coastal and other views, Probably
over Portland as well.
What to take:
Open at all times
Special Needs Access:
Probably difficult, but horse clearly visible
Special Needs Facilities:
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