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Long Man of Wilmington

Wilmington, East Sussex

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The Long Man of Wilmington has been known at times in history as:-

  • The long man (first mentioned in 1765, field defined as 'Longman Laine')

  • The green man

  • The lanky man

  • The lone man

  • Adam and Eve, local legend has it that he once had a companion.


The Long Man of Wilmington is located on the steep slopes of Windover Hill in Wilmington, East Sussex, and is one of the two human hill figures in England. The other human figure is the Cerne Abbas Giant in Cerne Abbas, north of Dorchester in Dorset.

The Long Man is 227 feet (69 metres) tall, designed unusually to look proportional when viewed from below. He appears to stand between two staffs or staves, which he holds in either hand, one on each side. One stave is 230 feet high and the other is 235 feet high. He is the largest earth drawn human figure in all of Europe, and second largest in the world, the largest being the Giant Of Attacama in Chile who stands 393 feet high.

The date and reason for the  construction of the Long Man is unknown, like the Cern Abbas Giant there are many stories and legends, in both case connected with both monks and a sleeping giant. Both were said to have had the size of the manhood changed by the Victorians, the long man's reduced while the Cerne Abbas Giant had his increased, although there is no evidence that the long man's was changed. Both have supporters who date them a long way back but in both cases there is no really old written evidence.

Over the years there have been alterations to the form and shape of the long man, and some suggest the stave as well.

Recorded History

Until recently the earliest record of Europe’s largest representation of the human form was in a drawing made by William Burrell when he visited Wilmington Priory, nestling under the steep slopes of Windover Hill, home of the 235 feet high Wilmington Giant.  In 1993, however, a new drawing of the Long Man was discovered, made by surveyor, John Rowley, in 1710. 

The new drawing some say has confirmed some theories and dispelled others.  It suggests that the original figure was a shadow or indentation in the grass rather than a solid line, there were facial features that are no longer visible, the staffs being held were not a rake and a scythe as once described and the head was once a distinctive helmet shape, giving credence to the idea of the figure as a helmeted war-god. 

It may however show that over time the shape has constantly changed, perhaps lost or nearly lost and regenerated by a new generation, and if you look at the sequence of drawings there appears to be an evolvement of the design rather than a complete change.

1710 1776 1807 1892

In the latter part of the 19th century, it is said it was sometimes possible to see on either side of the giant, lines parallel to his staves. Whether these features are a shallow bank or ditch is uncertain, though the lines apparently ran from the base of the hill to the summit. It was also generally thought in the local area during the 19th century that from time to time, the figure of a cockerel could be seen to the west of the Giant near the top of one of his staves, but this is no longer visible. Though the Giant doesn't seem to have been clothed, apart from in one account, there are several accounts of facial features, with pits for eyes and a raised nose and lips. Features around the top ends of the staves and above the head are also possible, and it has been suggested that the items the giant is holding is actually spears, or a rake and scythe, or a club and a bow.

The outline of the Long Man was originally marked out in packed chalk which the grass grew over. Until the 19th century the Long Man was only visible in certain light conditions and after a light fall of snow, but in 1874, it was marked out in yellow bricks by Rev. W. de St. Croix of the Sussex Archaeological Society. It is claimed that during this restoration, the feet were incorrectly positioned. The Duke of Devonshire, who funded the project, wrote in a letter to the Reverend, that although the bricks didn't fit the original outline, a useful purpose had been served by outlining the Giant.

In 1891, most of these were replaced with white bricks because of wear and vandalism which were then painted green during the Second World War to stop enemy planes using the giant as a landmark. Whitewash was used after the war ended to keep the Giant fresh but was replaced by something similar to road paint, when it was found that the whitewash didn't keep the giant fresh for long enough.  The 1891 bricks were finally replaced in 1969 by 770 concrete blocks which apparently didn't follow the original brick outline faithfully, as some of the 1873 yellow bricks were later found to contradict the new outline.

1969 excavations  - A shallow trench 0.8 metres wide and seven centimetres deep was found in an excavation in 1969, so the original outline was a lot bolder than the current, rather thin line of concrete blocks, this would have been necessary to allow the chalk to show through the layer of earth at the angle of viewing.  Despite all the modifications made over the years, the figure has been compared to a rock carving of a man carrying two staves found near Lake Onega, Northern Russia, a figure on the Sutton Hoo helmet and a well endowed figure holding two spears on a belt buckle found at a Saxon Cemetary in 1964 at Finglesham near Deal, Kent. In suggesting this last figure, shown on the right, as a possible identification of the Long Man, it was also suggested that the features shown on the buckle were also present on the Long Man, but were eradicated, possibly by a Christian influence.

Saxon belt buckle

A resistively survey using a Martin-Clark resistively meter was carried out in 1969 on the top portion of the giant. Of the features found, the possible greater length of the staves above their current reach is the most believable. Disturbance around the tops of the staves indicate the 1776 drawing with the scythe and rake is more plausible than originally thought. Lastly, some sort of plume is evident above the head, pointing eastwards. Despite this, an infra-red aerial photograph taken at the same time failed to show any features in the surveyed area.

The giants original age is unknown there are different views on this, but some fragments of red Roman tile dated by Professor Barry Cunliffe and found sprinkled within the outline were found. A comparison with fragments of the red brick sometimes used to repair the giant showed it was definitely not these. In the Eastbourne Gazette of April 29th 1874 it was reported that during the restoration with the yellow bricks, fragments of 'Roman Brick' were discovered. Why these fragments are there is not clear but they were found well above the base of the trench, suggesting the trench was initially dug before the Roman period, and had not been properly scoured after it. It is possible the tile fragments are some attempt by the Romans to stamp out whatever cult that they had come across in the area by defiling the image and marking it for the Romans or perhaps the Romanised British using Roman materials to mark out their idol,  though we can be fairly sure from the position of the fragments and the lack of other Roman features other than roads in the area, that the giant was not Roman in origin. The problem with using these fragments to assign a specific date comes from the continual movement of soil down the hill, in a process known as 'soil creep', and the action of earthworms, which sort large particles down to the bedrock, as could be seen during the excavations of the Long Man, where chalk rubble overlaid the surface of the chalk bedrock, with relatively clean topsoil on top. Therefore this may be said to prove a lot or nothing at all.


Some say the hill may have been deliberately altered to its present 28° slope at the time the Long Man was carved there. Although there is evidence for and against the theory, the shape of Windover Hill is unusual to say the least, because the voice of a speaker standing within the outlines of the Long Man is amplified by the shape of the hill. This has led to a range of theories connected with an oracle and ritual use.

Many Sussex people are convinced that he is prehistoric, others believe that he is the work of an artistic monk from the nearby Priory between the 11th and 15th centuries.  Roman coins bearing a similar figure suggest that he belonged to the 4th century AD and there may be plausible parallels with a helmeted figure found on Anglo-Saxon ornaments.

Local folklore has it that the Long Man is the outline of an actual giant who died on the hill and the people carved an outline around his supine form. But this does not answer the two staves on each side of the Long Man. In some legends the giant dies while pursuing a giantess and, indeed, there are many who see a Long Woman in the figure rather than a man.

The Leyline Connection

The Long Man is quite famous in Earth Mysteries circles. Alfred Watkins mentions the Giant in his seminal book 'The Old Straight Track', putting forward a theory that the figure is a "Dodman", someone who laid out the original leylines with the help of his two staves. The Long Man himself appears on a leyline, given as one of the "Official" lines in Paul Devereux's "Ley Hunters Companion".

As an almanac:- Some people say the giant is a solar almanac. The sunrise touching the tips of his staves or the staves only being lit by the sunrise or sunset at certain times of the year, such as the equinox. No evidence has yet been found of this. There is also a saying regarding the Long Man relating to the weather which is attributed to many points along the South Downs :

"When Firle or Long Man wears a cap,
We in the valley get a drap."

The "cap" in this case is clouds over the giant, the "drap" refers to a drop of rain.

Click on this image to see a larger version

Anderida Gorsedd, The Long Man of Wilmington, Autumn Equinox


There are many pre-historic sites on Windover Hill, indicating the hill was important to our ancestors over a span of time ranging from the Neolithic through the Bronze and into the Iron Age. Prehistoric burials in a barrow called Giants Grave can be found on the hill above the Long Man. A second long barrow lies to the east. There are several Bronze Age round barrows and a large bowl barrow associated with the figure. One of the round barrows contains particularly rich grave goods indicating a person of high status, perhaps a chieftain, was buried there.

A large hoard of bronze axe heads, with other weapon points and an axe mould, were discovered nearby, which may indicate the presence of a bronze foundry in the area. Fragments of Roman tiles found in the filled trenches around the Long Man indicate the site was maintained well into the Iron Age.

Stone heads:- There are three of what appear to be Celtic heads found in the village of Wilmington, which is unusual for a county not known for its stone heads. This may point to some sort of Celtic head cult in the area. Though dating stone heads is always difficult, two were found built into ancient buildings, the church and the priory, while the third is built into a cottage called "The Chantry", home to some of the villages vicars and around three and a half centuries old.

Location: Long Man of Wilmington, East Sussex

Grid Reference: TQ542034 Ceremonial County: Sussex

Map Link: StreetMap

Aerial photo: Google Aerial

Getting there:  The Long Man of Wilmington is located on the steep slopes of Windover Hill in Wilmington, East Sussex, 6 miles (9.6 km) northwest of Eastbourne. It is signposted from the A27, 2 miles west of the junction with the A22 at Polegate.

Access: There is a public car park (with height limitation) just south of Wilmington Priory, with excellent views available within a few yards’ walk. 
The Long Man may be reached by public footpaths to the base and the top of the figure and interpretation boards are located at the car park and at the bottom of the hill showing details of these. The rights of way to the base of the figure are reasonably easy for walkers, but are probably not suitable for wheelchairs.
Website: Sussex archaeology   
Other Useful Websites: The seer of Wilmington explained 
Postcode: Telephone:
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Nearby Locations:
Other Location Pages: Cerne Abbas Giant in Cerne Abbas, north of Dorchester, Dorset.
Other Relevant Pages:

Notes: Wilmington Priory is not open to the public.
There is group of Morris dancers called the Long Man Morris Men =  their website






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


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