Cerne Abbas – Cerne Abbas, Dorset

Cerne Abbas Giant

The Cerne Abbas Giant or Rude Giant or Rude Man is one of the biggest hillfigures in the country reaching a height of  55 meters (180 feet) and a width of  50 meters (165 feet) the huge club he carries in his right hand alone measures 36 meters (120 feet).

He is one of only two human image ancient hillside figures in the country, (the Long Man being the other) The image that is very clearly male was carved by use of a series of (30cm) one foot wide trenches criss-crossing the hillside above the historic village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset.

The one foot deep trenches were out of the soil to reveal the snow white chalk of the hill below making very clear white lines set against the green background of the hill grass.

There is a considerable amount of academic discussion as to the origin of the figure, a general consensus among members of the public is that it dates back to ancient times and was originally carved by early Britons and has been painstakingly preserved by many generations of locals throughout the ages.

It is however likely that similar to many other chalk figures throughout the country it was possibly originally produced some time in the 1600s. There is another hidden image known as the “frying pan” or “trendle” just to the side of the giant, and it is true that medieval scholars wrote of the unique location and referred to it as “Trendle Hill”.

But it seems implausible that these scholars would fail to mention the giant figure out into the same hillside if they were able to view it, especially as at the same time these scholars make note of other ancient hill carvings such as the world famous Uffington White Horse.

It also seems a little far fetched that the Benedictine monks would have built Cerne Abbey in the shadow of such a dominating “offensive” and un-Christian image if it was present at the time of construction in 987AD.

Others say that it is possible the figure has “come and gone” over the millennia depending on the religious, political and social climate of the different periods of history. The fact is that the first time that the figure is mentioned was in the mid-1690s when the church warden at Cerne Abbas holds an entry in his accounts for a payment of three shillings for the “re-cutting of the giant”

It is not mentioned again for over 160 years until a survey in the then popular Gentleman’s Magazine gives an accounting of the day dimensions of the giant. It was in 1774 in a book known as “The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset” that the author John Hutchins refers to the giant having been dogged in the last 100 years.

Some believe that the digging first appeared during the civil war and was intended as an insult to Oliver Cromwell as he was often called the countries “Hercules” and the giant was intended to mock is physical prowess.

Whatever its origins there can be no doubt that, rude or not, the giant still has plenty of admirers who are drawn to take a look at this historic landmark currently owned and kept in good condition by the National Trust.