Chalk Figures

Southern England is well known for its ancient chalk figures carved into hillsides. There are several white horses but only two representations of man. Probably the more famous is the Cerne Abbas Giant with his rather prominent phallus, but the larger is the Long Man of Wilmington.

The Long Man, or Wilmington Giant is the second largest representation of man in the world, only bettered by the Giant of Atacama in Chile. He stands 226 feet high, holding a staff in each hand. The staffs are 230 and 235 feet long.

While the figure is very long, he is not so wide because he was designed to be seen in correct proportions from Wilmington Priory at the bottom of the 28° slope of the hill. In fact, he appears a little stocky from here, and the ideal position to view him is by hovering 65 meters above the church!

Composition

It is believed that the Long Man was formed originally with chalk, which was then covered by grass growth. There is much speculation about his age, but it appears that the Romans may have tried to cover him up - in an attempt to eradicate the local cult. It therefore appears he is probably of Celtic or pre-christian Saxon origin.

Recent archaeological investigation has revealed he may not be this old after all. Controversial studies suggest he may date from as late as the mid 17th Century - around the same time as the Cerne Abbas Giant may have been created.

He was scoured and marked out in yellow bricks in 1874 by Rev. W. de St. Croix - who didn't quite fit the original outline. Wear and vandalism necessitated a renovation in 1891, when white bricks were used. These were painted green in WWII to disguise the landmark which could be used by enemy pilots.

After the war, whitewash was used, followed by replacement of the bricks with concrete blocks in 1969. These are painted with road paint, which stays white much longer than whitewash. The Long Man's shape is now significantly different to the original, judging by drawings dating back as far as 1710. Most notably, facial features have been lost, and the feet have moved from facing away from each other to facing the same way.

Location

The hill on which the Long Man lies is just to the south-east of Wilmingon village. The village is in the Longbridge Hundred, to the north-east of Eastbourne in East Sussex. The horse troughs at his feet (real ones, not chalk pictures) are at TQ542036 (Ordnance Survey), N50° 48.693' E0° 11.253' (WGS84)


Sources:
Recent visit
http://www2.prestel.co.uk/aspen/sussex/wilmington.html

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