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Osmington White Horse

Osmington, Dorset

Featured Location Guide

A large horse with rider on Osmington Hill, facing due south and looks out over Weymouth Bay. It is near the village of Osmington, east of Weymouth, was cut into limestone, and whitened with chalk. The steep slope allows some of the limestone to be washed off and trails run down the hill.


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The horse is best seen from the A353, a farm track opposite the Caravan Park offers a parking spot in a good position. It can be seen for miles around.

This huge horse was cut in 1808, or possibly a little earlier, is elegant and large 280' long and 323' high. It is one of the only four horses to face right.

A report in The Universal Magazine in 1808 said "An equestrian figure of His Majesty has lately been formed in the chalk on Osmington Hill...".

It is the only horse with a rider, representing King George III, who regularly visited Weymouth, and made it 'the first resort', riding on his horse.  There is a legend that King George was offended that the figure was riding out of Weymouth, a sign that he was not welcome, and never returned, but he as not well at this time and later may just have not been up to making the journey again. The horse was to commemorate the Royal visits to the area and the prosperity they brought. Mr Wood the book seller directed the construction at the expense and request of John Ranier, brother of Admiral Nelson.

The King never saw the chalk figure since it was not cut until three years after his last visit to the town. One version says the figure was added after his death.

Other stories and variations include:-

  • That it was cut by a soldier in the early 19th century to commemorate the visits paid to Weymouth by King George III and his brother, the Duke of Gloucester from 1789.
  • That the work was done by a group of engineers, stationed in Weymouth when the fear of a Napoleonic invasion was at its height. This is linked to the mention of the horse in Thomas Hardy's "The Trumpet Major", where it is said to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar.
  • In 1807 by soldiers to pass the time while awaiting Napoleon's invasion. It measures 260ft from the scarf like tail to the tip of its ear. George III and friends had visited Weymouth, then a fishing port, in 1793, liked it, even bathing from a machine on the beach, so the port became popular as a fashionable resort. The townspeople grew wealthy and in honour of the King the inhabitants added the representation of George to the horse.
  • The other possibility is that the people of Weymouth commissioned the horse. This could certainly be its origin - the town was extremely conscious of the value of the King's visits.
  • According to the Dorset official guide, the figure was already cut by 1807, and the figure of the King was simply added around 1815 as a gesture of appreciation for the Royal visits, but this does not line up with the earlier 1808 publication.
  • It is said that a Mr Wood, who created the figure, committed suicide when he realised that he had portrayed the King with his back to his beloved Weymouth. Unfortunately the King had made his last trip to the town and was never to see the monument.
  • According to a BBC report on a historians comments, Weymouth residents might be disappointed to hear that George III didn't go to the seaside town for his holidays. In fact, the first time the King visited was on his Grand Tour of the South West.  He only chose to stop in Weymouth because the Duke of Gloucester had a residency nearby. The King didn't bathe, and in fact was forced to leave in a hurry after a failed assassination attempt. His subsequent visits to the town were prompted by a need to put down the unruly Republicans. Not, sadly, to admire the seafront. .... also the famous White Horse on Osmington Hills just outside Weymouth shouldn't be white at all, the picture is supposed to depict the king on his favourite grey charger.
  • According to Dorset life magazine - Historians have confused the issue by claiming the figure as the Duke of Wellington or attributing it to a descendant of Sir John Arrow Kempe, who was emphatic that his grandfather had cut it in about 1820 ‘after the King’s death, as a memorial’. In fact it dates from a decade earlier. Thomas Oldfield Bartlett from Swanage noted in his diary on 24 August 1808 that on the hillside ‘is an image cut out presenting King George the 3rd on horseback’ which ‘takes up an acre of ground’. Just five days earlier, Weymouth bookseller John Wood had sent the antiquary, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the drawing of a flanged bronze axe ‘discovered in cutting out an equestrian figure of the King in the side of Osmington Hill’.

The small village of Osmington has narrow streets lined with picturesque thatched cottages. Osmington was also where the artist John Constable spent his 3 month honeymoon with his friend Reverend John Fisher. His pictures of Weymouth Bay and Osmington were the result of that visit. A short distance to the SE of the village is the deserted Mediaeval village of West Ringtead, a site considered to be of national importance, it is visible to us now as a series of settlements and earthworks in the landscape.

Further information Grid



Osmington White Horse, Dorset

Ceremonial County: Dorset

Grid Reference:


Map Link:

Ordnance survey SY716841

Aerial photo:

Google Aerial Photo



Best Times to Visit:

When light is on horse, at a guess, probably not early morning or late evening





Other useful websites:






Nearby Locations:

Weymouth, Portland etc.

Jurassic coastline

Small Stone Circle (Poxwell Carn) SY744836 

Other Relevant pages:

Introduction to hillside figures

How to photograph hillside figures

Listing of hillside figures



Planning Grid


Osmington White Horse, Dorset

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

To visit the figure take the road up through Preston, and Sutton Poytz, turn right at the crossroads, and after a short distance the road bears left and a track goes straight on, take this track and park.


Walk from where you have parked, on along the track, keeping right (straight on) at the major junction and past the trig point, and the tumuli. After passing a steel gate on the track the horse is on the right. There are many footpaths and routes from Poxwell, Osmington and Preston are all straightforward.


On track



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

White horse, coastal and other views, Probably over Portland as well.

What to take:


Nature highlights:








Opening times:

Open at all times



Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access: Probably difficult, but horse clearly visible from roads.
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities:  
Dogs Allowed: No restrictions.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park Section: White Horse & Hillside Features Key:
Page Ref: osmington Topic: Hillside Last Updated: 01/2012


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