The White Horse stones were two sarsen megaliths found on the slopes of Bluebell Hill near Maidstone, Kent.
Upper White Horse Stone
The upper stone of the white horse group is now a recumbent sarsen, although photographic evidence from 1912 suggests that the stone was in fact a standing stone which has subsequently fallen over. The stone is approximately 2.9m long, 1.65m wide, and about 60cm in height. During a surge in local antiquarian interest in the 1900's, a local enthusiast wrote that the stone reminded him of the sphinx, and it has been nicknamed the western sphinx ever since, despite having no head and being less than a metre high.
Lower White Horse Stone
The lower stone was sited about 300m to the west of the upper stone, but was unfortunately destroyed in 1823 in order for the field to become easer to plough. There is no record of the stones dimensions and the area on which it stood is now a dual carriageway.
How the stones got their name is lost in time, but possibly comes from their shape, early historians feeling the upper stone represented a standing horse. However, it is equally likely the name stems from an ancient legend concerning the Jutes connected with the area.
In AD455, the Battle of Aylesford was fought on the slopes of the hill between the armies of Hengist and Horsa, two Angle-Saxon brothers, and Vortimer, son of Vortigern, overlord of the Southern Counties.
The actual existence of the above people is examined far better by anuerin, but the legend still remains.
Apparently, the banner carried by the Jutes was in the form of a white horse which later became the emblem in the centre of the Kent coat of arms. The stones are thought to have marked the site of the camp of the Jutes army where the standard would have been raised.
Before the Legend
Despite being connected, albeit rather dubiously, with Anglo-saxon battles in the 5th Century, the stones have far more ancient heritage. A recent excavation carried out due to the encroaching presence of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) by the Oxford Archaeology Unit, discovered the site had been used since the Neolithic period.
Using the strip and map technique, archaeologists found
remains of a Neolithic longhouse with an associated circular building within the vincinity. There was also evidence of grain storage and metal working taking place at the site at around 600AD, showing occupation continued into the Bronze Age. It is thought that the site was extensively robbed during the Medieval period, which has led to any further structural evidence being destroyed. There were said to be 9 fragmented stones lying in a nearby field which may have been connected with a Neolithic long barrow, but these, along with all traces of the excavation, have been wiped away by the development of the new rail links and dual carriageway.
The remaining white horse stone lies on the left side of the Pilgrim's Way, an ancient trackway running between Winchester and Canterbury, which crosses the more modern A229. Park at the garage on the left of the northbound dual carriageway, and follow the CTRL fence down the hill. The footpath to the stone should be about 200 yards down the fence, but has been blocked by CTRL works. The intrepid could probably still reach it if they didn't mind a lot of mud and brambles.
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Other Local Prehistoric Sights
Kent Curiosities by John E. Vigar 1992, Dovecote Press
http://www.kent-history.com/ShapingTheCounty/megaliths.htm - For a picture of the 'standing' upper white horse stone.
http://www.eng-h.gov.uk/ArchRev/rev98_9/cas.htm#CTRL - for information regarding the excavations carried out in the area.
http://www.ctrl.co.uk/photos/displaygallery.asp?ID=2345&L=19&SL=44 - for a rather inferior photograph of the postholes of the Neolithic longhouse.