The Long Man of Wilmington is a hill figure located in Wilmington, East Sussex, England on the steep slopes of Windover Hill, 9.6 kilometres (6 mi) northwest of Eastbourne. The Long Man is 69.2 metres (227 ft) tall and designed to look in proportion when viewed from below.
The Long Man is one of two main human hill figures in England; the other is the Cerne Abbas giant, north of Dorchester. Both are Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Two other hill figures that include humans are the Osmington White Horse and the Fovant regimental badges. The Long Man is one of two hill figures in East Sussex, the other being the Litlington White Horse.
The origin of the Long Man remains unclear. Archaeological work done by Professor Martin Bell of the University of Reading suggests that the figure dates from the sixteenth or seventeenth century AD.
Originally, the earliest known record was in a drawing done by William Burrell when he visited Wilmington Priory, near Windover Hill in 1766. Burrell’s drawing shows the figure holding a rake and a scythe, both shorter than the staves. However, in 1993, a new drawing was discovered, made by the surveyor John Rowley in 1710. This drawing suggested that the original figure was a shadow or indentation in the grass with facial features, rather than an outline of a human figure. The staffs were not depicted as a rake and scythe as was once thought, and the head was a helmet shape.
Between 1873 and 1874, Reverend W. de St Croix marked out the outline with yellow bricks cemented together though it is claimed that the restoration process distorted the position of the feet.
Aubrey Manning investigated when the figure dates from for his Open University show Landscape Mysteries. He concluded that it probably dates from the 16th century.
Tira Brandon-Evans believes it represents a shaman or druid connected to teinm láida, one of the three types of British Celtic divination described in the Auraicept na n-Éces.
20th and 21st centuries
In 1925, the site of the Long Man was given to the Sussex Archaeological Trust (now the Sussex Archaeological Society) by the Duke of Devonshire. During the Second World War it was painted green to avoid it being used as a landmark by German aircraft.
The 1993 book, The Druid Way by Sussex author Philip Carr-Gomm, drew attention to the supposed significance of the Long Man as a sacred site for the modern world.
At dawn on May Day, the Long Man Morris Men dance at the foot of the Long Man. The Long Man plays host to neo-pagan rituals on Sundays closest to the eight Pagan Festivals through the year.
In 2007, the Long Man of Wilmington was used in Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine’s television fashion show Undress the Nation. Trinny, Susannah and 100 women gave the Long Man a temporary female form by using their bodies to add pigtails, breasts and hips. ITV stated that they were given permission for the event by Sussex Archaeological Society and that they took “the utmost care… to protect this historical site”. The Long Man was not permanently changed or affected, according to the owners, the Sussex Archaeological Society. The stunt prompted local Druid Greg Draven to form a protest during filming. Sussex Archaeological Society later apologised for any offence caused to any “individuals or groups” by the filming. The Council of British Druid Orders claimed the stunt would “dishonour an ancient Pagan site of worship”.
Overnight, between 17 June and 18 June 2010 a giant phallus was painted on the Long Man rivalling that of the Cerne Abbas giant. Observed by the local Druids, it appears that a football pitch marker or similar object was used to paint the phallus onto the Long Man.