History at White Horse Hill
There’s no denying that White Horse Hill is a historic place full of myths and legends. Did St George really slay a dragon here? Evidence of man visiting the hill dates back as far as Neolithic times, at Waylands Smithy long barrow, and then came the Bronze Age white horse and Iron Age hillfort. From Roman times to today, the landscape has been farmed and grazed, and still holds a special fascination for visitors.
The legend of St George
One of the most famous stories in England is about Saint George slaying a dragon with his sword. There are lots of locations that are rumoured in myths and legends as the site where this took place, and Dragon Hill, sat in the shadow of White Horse Hill, is one of them.
The white mark you can see on the top of Dragon Hill is said to be where the dragon fell down dead, its blood so poisonous that the grass has never grown there to this day.
The origins of Dragon Hill
This circular hill is 10 metres high and is a natural outcrop from the main downland escarpment, scoured into shape by melting ice during the Ice Age. It was later quarried and the top levelled by the Dobunni (a Celtic tribe that lived in the British Isles before the Roman invasion) to take the shape we see today.
A burial site
Saint George wasn’t English and according to history never visited Uffington or the local area, so perhaps the myth isn’t so likely. If Dragon Hill wasn’t the site of the dragon slay, then what was it? One suggestion is that the hill is the burial site of Uther Pendragon, a British Chieftan who fought against the Saxons and may have been slain on the hilltop.
Another explanation is that the white mark is caused by the very high level of potash (a type of salt) found on the summit, where pagan ceremonies involving fire and sacrifice might have taken place.
The legend continues
Was George really as brave as his legend would have us believe, and did he leave his mark on White Horse Hill for generations to come? These things won’t ever be known for sure, but the story of his mighty defeat of a dragon on Dragon Hill will continue to be told.
Discover what to see and do at White Horse Hill in Uffington. Take in the views from the world-famous chalk horse and explore the ancient landscape.
White Horse Hill is a one pawprint rated place. Find out more about bringing your dog here. Explore the famous Bronze-age landscape and chalk horse together.