LETTER: Tall tales and the Long Man

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I reply to the letter last week from Mr Firth entitled ‘Long Man’s a Professional’, and ascribing him to be an ancient surveyor. I have read various articles on this subject the earliest being 1791 through to 1983.

Clearly for more than 200 years there has been plenty of conjecture but no provable facts as to what the Wilmington Giant aka the Long Man of Wilmington depicts. Also it is not known which group of people first created the image by removing the turf or why they did so.

He has variously been claimed to be connected to the Christian religion, Paganism, the Occult and Surveyors, all without evidence. The earliest known sketch of the giant was made by a surveyor, John Rowley, in 1710.

Regarding the letter from Pauline Black [May 19] in which she relates her 1940s memory of the giant, cut into the chalk and with a rake and scythe, I’m afraid that could not have been. For it was in the 1890s that white bricks were placed over the chalk and grass outline. These were subsequently replaced in 1969 by concrete blocks. At the beginning of the Second World War the bricks were painted green to prevent enemy aircraft from using the figure as a reference point, and later re-painted white.

A drawing by William Burrell in 1766 does show a rake and a scythe and I understand that recent surveys show that ‘something’ may have been atop the poles. In addition, I read in a 1930s edition of the Sussex County Magazine an 1870s letter from a young female domestic who was working at Wilmington Priory which she sent to her mother in Seaford, in which she wrote words to the effect, “From my window I can see the giant. As it has been snowing it shows the outlines of where the rake and scythe heads were. The locals say that you can only see them in the snow and some light.”

The letter was accompanied by a drawing of the giant showing both rake and scythe. Long Man or Giant of Wilmington, whichever, the figure is the second largest depiction of a man in the world – and also a mystery.

I wonder what he would look like at sunrise if painted gold?

PAUL WOOLMER

Wannock Drive, Polegate