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Locals Gallop to Landmark’s Aid

Monday, June 30, 2014

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It takes a village to paint a horse—especially when that critter blankets nearly two acres of a remote hillside.

The fact is, beauty requires many hands and truckloads of paint when you're 157 years old, 318 feet long, and 220 feet high.

Thus, the fresh facelift of the Kilburn White Horse—a massive figure carved into 1.6 acres of a hillside in northern England—is a very big deal.

White Horse Lodge via Trip Advisor

The Kilburn White Horse was created in 1857. But its limestone substrate, algae overgrowth, and weathering usually tend it make it look gray.

The horse can thank some stalwart local volunteers and the generosity of a painting contractor and coating supplier for its new coat.

Prehistoric Predecessor

Visible for up to 28 miles on a clear day, the icon is cut into the hillside in the North York Moors National Park near Kilburn in North Yorkshire.

The work is the northernmost and largest of England's popular hillside figures, reports the Kilburn White Horse Association, a local group devoted to the horse's upkeep.

According to Morris Marples' 1941 White Horses and Other Hill Figures, the Kilburn White Horse was the brainchild of a Yorkshire local, Thomas Taylor, whose business travels took him to the Uffington White Horse, a 374-foot-long prehistoric figure built into White Horse HIll in Uffington, England.

A schoolteacher-friend of Taylor outlined the horse, working with his students. The work was then created by 31 men in 1857, officials say.


The Kilburn White Horse was inspired by a native's fascination with the Uffington White Horse, a prehistoric hill figure formed from trenches filled with crushed chalk.

The underlying limey standstone, which weathers to gray, is covered with chalk chippings that were spread by hand. Still, dirt, algae and chalk disturbances give the white horse a decidely grayish cast, leading to her nickname, "the old gray mare."

Rather than continue to dump more chalk, caretakers turned in 1999 to paint.


The horse was last painted in 2005. An attempted recoat four years ago was cut short by rain. This time, however, the weather cooperated and a three-generation team of 10 volunteers set out Saturday (June 21) to tackle the job.

Maintenance is an all-volunteer effort; the landmark receives no public funds.

This time, Instore Solutions Ltd., a local industrial painting contractor, donated labor and PPG Architectural Coatings Ltd. donated half of the paint for the project, the Daily Mail reported.

InStore Solutions

A UK industrial painting contractor, InStore Solutions, volunteered three of its painters to help recoat the White Horse, which covers 1.6 acres. PPG donated half of the paint.

Instore said on its website that it had provided three painters at no charge in response to an appeal from the Kilburn White Horse Association. (Another contractor, Eden Whatnell, did the 1999 painting and 2005 recoat gratis.)

PPG did not respond to a request for more details on the project.

Hill Figures

England boasts other ancient hill figures, including the Cerne Abbas Gian and the Long Man of Wilmington.

But the caretakers of the White Horse are passionate.

"It's an icon of Yorkshire, and it can be seen from some distance away," said Helen Bielby, vice-chairman of the Kilburn White Horse Association.

"Obviously, when it's whiter, it's more visible."


Tagged categories: Historic Preservation; Maintenance coating work; Painting Contractor; PPG; Project Management

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