Our pub was built in 1908 as the Black Horse Hotel, a small Edwardian hostelry. It was rechristened The Giant’s Rest in 2000 and then born again as the Long Man Inn in 2023, in honour of our guardian on Windover Hill, the Long Man of Wilmington. We like to pay homage to our namesake in as many ways as possible but like everybody we are baffled by his origins!
At a colossal 231 feet (70 metres) from head to toe, the Long Man is the largest depiction of the human form in Europe. The first documentary evidence dates to 1710 when surveyor John Rowley made a drawing of him. A more detailed image from 1766 by William Burrell shows the Giant holding a rake and scythe, both shorter than the staves we see flanking him today. More historical images appeared over the next hundred years. In these he was only discernible as a shadow in the grass during certain lights or after a dusting of snow or frost. Representations vary in detail – sometimes he’s wearing a helmet or hat, facial features are evident in others, and often his feet appear in different positions.
In the early 1870s a botched attempt was made to make a more permanent outline of our Giant with yellow bricks, cemented into place and whitewashed. This somewhat unorthodox approach resulted in simplification of the figure’s outline. It was originally planned to cut his profile through to the white chalk bedrock below the turf, but this proved impossible. The position of his feet was probably altered during this endeavour. While cutting the turf, fragments of Roman pottery were unearthed, leading to speculation that he might date back to Roman Britain. (A terraced path, probably dating to Roman times, runs to the west and north of the figure.) In 1925 the Duke of Devonshire, owner of the site, gifted it to the Sussex Archaeological Trust (now Sussex Archaeological Society) in whose care it remains. During the Second World War the Long Man was painted green so he could not be used as a landmark by the Luftwaffe. Then in 1969 the old bricks were replaced by breeze blocks resulting in yet further distortion – thus what we see today is only a rough approximation of his original shape.
Archaeologists carried out a proper investigation of the site on Windover Hill in 2003. Their findings revealed that after a long period of stability the northern slope underwent major disruption sometime in the 16th or 17th century, strongly suggesting that the figure was made during this time. Theories thus emerged that the Long Man was a figure of Tudor or Stuart satirical comment, or possibly a religious image associated with the Reformation. However, if either of these were true it seems likely that some written historical account would have survived.