Shape-shifting: the changing outline of the long man of Wilmington.
An article by Rodney Castleden, in the Sussex Archaeological Collections 140.
The figure was bricked in 1873, and there was some argument about what the proper outline should be. It had long been grassed over but could still be seen albeit indistinctly - in 1800 it was called 'The Green Man'. The earliest known drawing comes from 1710.
East Hill dominates the Eastern side of Old Town Hastings and you are struck immediately by it’s impregnability as you walk beneath the sandstone cliffs to the south or climb the steep steps on it’s western flank. Though we were here for a day trip and hadn’t come prepared with maps or ideas of a long stroll along the cliff tops it was evident once we were up there that this hill had history. There are perceptible undulations here and there across the turf indicating possible cross dykes or cultivation strips, but these are over-run with flattened areas suggesting more recent use as a putting green. Towards the crest of the hill is a broadly rectangular enclosure that I wasn’t entirely sure about as it’s now devoted to barbecuing, but it’s in the right place and has an air of ancientness about it. Walking on Eastwards across the hill you get magnificent views of golden limestone cliffs towering defiantly over a churning English Channel and just as you begin to dip downwards you come across the biggest piece of evidence so far in the form of a huge dyke running North to the other side of the hill. It’s largely overgrown and quite difficult to make out but it seems to be a whopper and suggests that this is indeed an Iron Age promontory fort.
Further research at home also revealed that the modern beacon you pass near the top of the steps stands on what was probably a large Bronze Age barrow. This was reused for burials in Saxon times possibly by the towns earliest Saxon arrivals who gave the town its name. West Hill, which stands across the valley from Old Town Hastings, also has prehistory and was also used to build one of the original Norman Castles following the conquest.