Marlborough White Horse

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Marlborough White Horse in 2007

Marlborough White Horse, also called the Preshute White Horse, is a hill figure on Granham Hill, a fairly shallow slope of the downland above the hamlet of Preshute, southwest of Marlborough in the county of Wiltshire, England. Dating from 1804, it is one of several such white horses to be seen around Great Britain, and one of nine in Wiltshire.[1]

Many distant views of the horse are obstructed by trees, but it can be seen from parts of the town of Marlborough. One good view is from a footpath running from Preshute House to the A345 road. The figure is some 500 metres south of Marlborough College, within 100 metres of the southeast corner of the college sportsground.[2]


The smallest such horse in Wiltshire, the Marlborough horse was cut in 1804 by boys at Mr Greasley's Academy, also called the High Street Academy,[3] a school in Marlborough High Street which occupied the building now The Ivy House Hotel. This was not the present-day Marlborough College, which is only a short distance away. The horse was designed and marked out on the hill by a boy called William Canning, whose family owned the Manor House at Ogbourne St George. From then onwards, it was "scoured", or cleaned up, every year, this becoming a tradition at the school marked by revelry.[2][4]

Greasley died about 1830, and the school was closed, leading to the horse being neglected for some years, but by 1860 it was back in good condition and can be seen in a photograph taken that year at a cricket match. In 1873 a Captain Reed, an old boy of Greasley's Academy who had taken part in the horse's creation, saw to a new scouring.[2]

The horse is 62 feet long by 47 high, and it has got thinner since the early twentieth century. It was restored again in September 2001, when it was re-chalked with pure chalk mixed with water and applied with a stiff brush, but by the late summer of 2002 it already had grass growing on much of its surface.[2]

A verse of the Marlborough College school song refers to the horse:

And when to Marlborough old and worn we shall creep back like ghosts,
And see youngsters yet unborn run in between the posts,
Ah, then we'll cry, thank God, my lads, the Kennett's running still,
And see, the old White Horse still pads up there on Granham Hill.[5]

For a while in 1969, the horse was not the only hill figure in Marlborough, as the Scout logo was cut into a nearby hill, commemorating the Marlborough Group's Diamond Jubilee. As no permission was granted for the figure to be permanent, the land's owners replanted plants on it later in the year.[6]


The horse may have been inspired by the nearby Cherhill White Horse, which itself was probably created in imitation of the first such Wiltshire horse, at Westbury, remodelled in the 1770s. It is unclear whether the Westbury horse is ancient, but the Uffington horse, now in Oxfordshire, has been shown to date from the Bronze Age. The earliest evidence of the Westbury horse is in a paper of the Rev. Francis Wise published in 1742, which refers to it.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Morris Marples, White Horses & Other Hill Figures (London: Country Life Ltd, 1949; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1949)
  2. ^ a b c d Marlborough at
  3. ^ The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, vol. 98 (2005), p. 91: "Following the cutting of Marlborough White Horse in 1804 by pupils of the High Street Academy, scouring with revels took place every year for approximately 30 years but halted upon the headmaster's death." – via Internet Archive
  4. ^ Morris Marples, White horses and other hill figures (1981 reprint), p. 91: "The scouring of the Marlborough horse was carried out every year by the boys of Mr Greasley's academy so long as it continued in existence, and we are told that the ceremony was one of the most cherished traditions of the school. One can well imagine that it called for a holiday and appropriate celebrations."
  5. ^ Paul Newman, Lost gods of Albion: the chalk hill-figures of Britain (1997), p. 207
  6. ^ Marlborough Scout Logo
  7. ^ Francis Wise, Further Observations on the White Horse and other Antiquities in Berkshire (1742)


  • William Plenderleath, On the White Horses of Wiltshire and Its Neighbourhood (Wilts Archaeological Magazine, vol. 14 for the year 1872, pp. 12–30)
  • Rev. W. C. Plenderleath, White Horses of the West of England (London: Alfred Russell Smith, & Calne: Alfred Heath, 1885; 2nd edition, London, Allen & Storr, 1892)
  • Morris Marples, White Horses & Other Hill Figures (London: Country Life Ltd, 1949; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1949)
  • Kate Bergamar, Discovering Hill Figures (London: Shire Publications, 1968, 4th revised edition 1997, ISBN 0-7478-0345-5)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°24′46″N 1°44′15″W / 51.41271°N 1.73757°W / 51.41271; -1.73757