|Broad Town is three miles south of Wootton Bassett on the Marlborough road, and the white horse is in a depression on a steep slope half a mile north east of the village. |
It is on land which once belonged to Little Town Farm. According to Rev. Plenderleath, writing in 1885, it was cut in 1864 by a William Simmonds, who held the farm then. Simmonds claimed later that it had been his intention to enlarge the horse gradually over the years, but he had to give up the farm and so did not have the opportunity. It is difficult to imagine exactly what he had in mind; take a drawing of a horse and expand it by enlarging the outline, and the more one enlarges it the less the result resembles the original.
There is another version of the origin of the Broad Town white horse, however. The Curator of the Imperial War Museum, in a newspaper interview in 1919, said that as a schoolboy in 1863 he had helped scour the horse, and that he had been told at that time that it was at least fifty years old then. If that is true, then William Simmonds may have scoured the horse in 1864, rather than cut it as he claimed.
The horse suffered from neglect through much of its history, but in 1991 the Broad Town White Horse Restoration Society was formed, and they restored the horse and continue to regularly scour it. On my last visit in May 2004 the horse was in good condition.
Visible for many miles, the horse can be seen well from the village of Broad Town. The site can be reached by footpaths from the village, and from the road where it climbs Broad Town Hill just to the south of the village, though there are no parking places on Broad Town Hill. The steps below the horse are dangerous, and should not be used.