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Marlborough White Horse

also known as Preshute White Horse

Preshute, nr Marlborough, Wiltshire

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When created, there may have been less or smaller trees between it and the A4, it can just about be seen now if you know where to look, but due to its size and low position you need to go far nearer to get a good view.

It's in good condition and can be photographed or visited.

Located on a shallow slope on Granham Hill, above the village of Preshute, just southwest of Marlborough. It is just to the west of the A345 Marlborough to Pewsey Road, and south of the A4. Today unless you are aware of it, you are unlikely to notice it as you drive through the area.

I think it was originally designed to be viewed from the Marlborough Mound at SU 183687 (more below). The horse would also have overlooked the flat area in front used to play local cricket matches. As it originally had only two legs, it is possible that it was some representation of a creature coming out of the ground, or hillside perhaps connected with the legends around the mound also said then to be the burial site of the magician Merlin.

Over its history this horse has changed:-

The design was by William Canning, a son of Thomas Canning of the Manor House in Ogbourne St. George, and pupil at the Academy. The horse had two legs and no eye, and a naturalistic, somewhat plumper representation of a horse. It was cut in 1804 by pupils of a boys' school run by a Mr Greasley or Gresley, who ran the Academy in the High Street, located where the Ivy House Hotel, is now. This academy was a different school to Marlborough College, which did not exist at the time being established in 1843. It became a school tradition to maintain the horse, until Mr Greasley's death around 1830. It then became overgrown. In 1860 it was in reasonable condition again; a photograph taken that year of a cricket match shows the horse in the background. It seems to have then become neglected again until 1873 when a former pupil, Captain Reed organised the repair of the horse. The horse gained an eye and two more legs,  became more defined and more horse like, some would say more stylized. He is said to have taken part in the creation of the horse, but if so would have made him rather elderly when taking on the recovery and redesign.

Marlborough College

In 1843, a group of Church of England clergymen, with the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, were looking to found a boarding school with the prime purpose of educating the sons of clergy.  Hearing that the Castle Inn at Marlborough was vacant, they took a lease on it and so Marlborough College started in August 1843 with the admission of its first 199 boys.

Marlborough Mound SU183687
(Also known as Merlins Mount, and Marlborough Mount).

In the grounds of Marlborough College, thought to be the same age as Silbury Hill 5 miles west, but smaller, although the second largest man made mound in Europe after Silbury. It is  20 metres high and about 100 metres in diameter at its base. After 1068 the Normans started to build a castle here, digging a moat to surround the Marlborough Mound and a large area to the south of it. The castle reached the peak of its importance in Henry III's time, Parliament enacting “The Statutes of Marlborough” there in 1267. This later became the site of the Castle Inn. The name 'marlborough' , from the anglo-saxon 'Maerle beorg' - Maerla's barrow. It is also said to be the burial place of Merlin - the town's motto is 'Ubi nunc sapientis ossa Merlini' i.e. Where now are the bones of wise Merlin. The mound is said to have had  a spiral path in the past.

By the tennis courts follow the bridleway left to see the white horse or the footpath right to get to it.

In 1782, in his 'Observations on the River Wye', William Gilpin (the prebendary of Salisbury) wrote:

Marlborough-down is one of those vast, dreary scenes, which our ancestors, in the dignity of a state of nature, chose as the repositories of their dead. Every where we see the tumuli, which were raised over their ashes; among which the largest is Silbury-hill.. At the great inn at Marlborough formerly a mansion of the Somerset-family, one of these tumuli stands in the garden, and is whimsically cut into a spiral walk; which, ascending imperceptibly, is lengthened into half a mile. The conceit at least gives an idea of the bulk of these massy fabrics.

One other site noted

"It seems even bigger from the top, and apart from owt else, you can see the (from here, rather small) 19th century Marlborough White Horse."


I have seen reports that a new roundabout is to be built in Salisbury Road, Marlborough to provide access to the new White Horse Business Park. There is a plan to create two chalk white horses, one on each side of the roundabout, with chalk spoil from the development.

Further information Grid



Marlborough White Horse, Preshute, nr Marlborough, Wiltshire

Ceremonial County: Wiltshire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:

Ordnance survey SU184682

Aerial photo:




Best Times to Visit:






Other useful websites:

Savernake Forest

Marlborough College

Nearby Locations:

Marlborough Mound


Silbury Hill  

Other Relevant pages:

Introduction to hillside figures

How to photograph hillside figures

Listing of hillside figures



Planning Grid


Marlborough White Horse, Preshute, nr Marlborough, Wiltshire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

From the A4 west, take the small road to Manton, turn left and follow the road to the end.


Through the gates on the right, by tennis courts, follow the track on the river side and you can see the horse across the tennis counts and beyond this without anything in the way. Going up the hill when you first approach the tennis courts, on a footpath you can get to the horse.


Church, tennis courts etc. All Free



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

White Horse, river, the Marlborough Mound nearby.

What to take:


Nature highlights:








Opening times:

Access to horse at all times. Mound on Marlborough College grounds but encourages visitors.



Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access: Not difficult terrain to see and photograph, but to get to horse may be harder.
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities: None specific, good site for children
Dogs Allowed: Due to tennis and other sports activities going on in area, its best not to take dogs.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park Section: White Horse & Hillside Features Key:
Page Ref: marlborough Topic: Hillside Last Updated: 01/2012


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