The final of our six part posting of England’s Hill Figures the Kilburn White Horse, is formed in the hillside near the village of Kilburn, in North Yorkshire, England. The horse is 318 feet long by 220 ft high and covers about 1.6 acres and is said to be the largest and most northerly of the chalk figures in England.
The Kilburn horse faces south-south-west and is clearly visible from some distance. On a clear day, the horse is visible from north Leeds, 28 miles away on the higher ground to the west of the Vale of York.
Sutton Bank, geologically, is formed of limestone. The horse was created by removing the topsoil and exposing the underlying rock. It was created in November 1857, and some accounts state that it was done by school master John Hodgson and his pupils, together with local volunteers. A tablet erected at the car park below it reads, “The Kilburn ‘White Horse’ — This figure was cut in 1857 on the initiative of Thomas Taylor, a native of Kilburn. In 1925 a restoration fund was created by the readers of the Yorkshire Evening Post to provide for the ongoing grooming of the figure.”
However, Morris Marples in his 1949 book gives Thomas Taylor the credit for being the prime mover: a native of Kilburn, he was a buyer for a London provision merchant, and he seems to have attended celebrations at Uffington White Horse in 1857, at which time he became inspired to give his home village a similar example. Thirty-three men were involved in the cutting of the figure, and 6 tons of lime were used to whiten the exposed rock. The image itself is now formed of off-white limestone chips, but the steep gradient of the hillside, especially at the horse’s breast and forelegs, have led to slumping. Retention boards have been used to fix and halt the degredation.
During World War II the horse was covered over to prevent it from becoming a conspicuous navigation landmark for enemy bombers. This white horse can reputedly be seen from Julian’s Bower, Alkborough in North Lincolnshire, over 45 miles away.