Object Details

Long Man of Wilmington

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General Information
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Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright for Photograph:

Creative Commons

Location

Street:The Street
Town:Wilmington
Parish:Wilmington
Council:Wealden District Council
County:East Sussex
Postcode:BN26
Location on Google Map
Object setting:Public Park
Access is:Public
Location note:At the foot of Windover Hill, visible from the A27
In the AZ book:East Sussex
Page:152
Grid reference:C1
The A-Z books used are A-Z East Sussex and A-Z West Sussex (Editions 1A 2005). Geographers' A-Z Map Company Ltd. Sevenoaks.
OS Reference:TQ543034

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Makers

Name : Unknown

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General Information

Work is:Extant
Owner custodian:Sussex Archaeological Society
Description:The figure either holds lances, staves or spears or the uprights possibly represent portals. The uprights are almost symmetrical, giving the illusion of an unfinished rectangular frame. Both legs are now turned to the East but the feet were originally wider apart and both facing outwards as seen in the 1874 photo. The figure is naked and featureless but there is a possibility that it was originally clothed – early drawings indicate this and also place facial features and make the head helmet shaped. Interestingly, the figure’s proportions only appear correct from the air. There is elongation to counteract foreshortening (unlike Cerne or the Uffington horse).
Iconographical description:There have been many suggestions for the figure’s identity, including: Beowulf, a Saxon warrior or haymaker, Wotan, Baldur, a Roman Emperor, Dodman (ley line surveyor), the fighting man badge of King Harold, Herne the Hunter, Samson, the Herald of the Harvest, St. Peter (folklore exists of a figure of a cock immediately to the east of the Long Man – Wilmington Church is of St. Peter – there is no evidence of this however.

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Classification

Object type1:Landscape
Subject type1:Symbolic
Subject type2:Figurative
     Subject subtype1:Standing

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Object Parts

Part 1:Figure with staves
     Material:Painted concrete blocks
     Height (cm):725
     Width (cm):355

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Object Condition

Overall condition:Good
Risk assessment:No known risk
Condition 1 of type:Surface
     Condition 1: Corrosion, deterioration
     Condition 2: Biological growth
     More details:The terracettes, horizontal ripples in the turf, change constantly as the soil is rolled downhill by weathering and animal activity. The concrete blocks vary in condition but they are repainted annually.
Date of on-site inspection:23/11/2007

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History

History:The question of whether the monument is neolithic or not has been raised primarily because it is not mentioned in any early documents. The earliest written mention of the figure is in 1779. It is therefore suggested that the figure is in fact a Georgian Folly. There is a drawing by Sir William Burrell dated 1766 and a drawing has recently been discovered from 1710 by surveyor John Rowley. This is the earliest recorded reference to it however. The earliest known photograph of it was taken in 1874.
Many people still feel that it possibly originated in pre-history. The monumentality and iconography is suggestive of a Neolithic site (eg. Stonehenge and Avebury). There is also a high concentration of Neolithic sites at the eastern end of South Downs.
The Long Man is the largest of British Giants at 70m (Cerne Abbas is 55m). The figure either holds lances, staves or spears or the uprights possibly represent portals. The uprights are almost symmetrical, giving the illusion of an unfinished rectangular frame. Both legs are now turned to the East but the feet were originally wider apart and both facing outwards as seen in the 1874 photo. The figure is naked and featureless but there is a possibility that it was originally clothed – early drawings indicate this and also place facial features and make the head helmet shaped. Interestingly, the figure’s proportions only appear correct from the air. There is elongation to counteract foreshortening (unlike Cerne or the Uffington horse). It is possible that the sightline should be from Wilmington Church – from the old yew tree (AD 400). This was a focus of pagan religious activity before the church was built. ? was a second hill giant near Wilmington
The site was handed over by Duke of Devonshire to the Sussex Archaeological Trust in 1925. One of the main problems in identifying the origins is that the figure is not the original chalk one but is now an assemblage of white painted concrete blocks that were placed there in 1969. In 1874 it was outlined in yellow bricks. The figure was painted green in WWII to prevent Germans using as a navigation aid.
There have been many suggestions for the figure’s identity, including: Beowulf, a Saxon warrior or haymaker, Wotan, Baldur, a Roman Emperor, Dodman (ley line surveyor), the fighting man badge of King Harold, Herne the Hunter, Samson, the Herald of the Harvest, St. Peter (folklore exists of a figure of a cock immediately to the east of the Long Man – Wilmington Church is of St. Peter – there is no evidence of this however.
(Castleden, Rodney. ‘Ancient British Hill Figures’. S.B. Publications. Seaford. 2000)

The chalk grassland around the Long Man of Wilmington is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) being lowland calcareous grassland. The figure rests on a 28 degree slope.

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References

Source 1 :
     Title:‘Ancient British Hill Figures’
     Type:Book
     Author:Castleden, Rodney.
     Publisher:S.B. Publications. Seaford..


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Photographs





Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons




Author: Anthony McIntosh
Copyright: Creative Commons

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