THOUSANDS of people from all over the country gathered on top of the White Horse this morning and thousands more tuned in to our live broadcast to watch a truly historic moment.
Since Tarmac, the company which owns the site, announced that it had plans to bring the 122-metre chimney to the ground, excitement steadily grew and it reached fever pitch as 7am approached this morning.
With marshals from Westbury Lions and police officers on hand to direct sleepy spectators to the viewing area, the atmosphere was a combination of excitement and sadness as the big moment drew nearer.
Trevor Heeks, a former employee at the cement works and Trowbridge town crier, conducted the 10-second countdown.
He said: “My voice was a bit croaky as I had a competition yesterday but apart from that it was absolutely fantastic.
“Everything went to plan; the countdown went well and the chimney fell just the way it supposed to. It was a lovely event to bring everyone together, there must have been around 5,000 people watching.
“West Wiltshire will never be the same again.”
Derek Wrighton, 72, from Jersey, also a former employee, had no idea the chimney was being demolished until 6am this morning.
His son, Simon, organised for him to come over but didn’t tell him what was happening.
Derek said: “I came over from Jersey for the weekend along with my wife to visit my son in Bristol.
“He said we had to go to Westbury but didn’t explain why. It’s only when I saw the sign that said ‘chimney demolition’ that I realised what was going on.
“It was quite emotional watching it go as I really enjoyed my time working there, but also nice to be able to see it go.”
Jane Leaver, 61, from Westbury, said: “We have lived here since 1980 and the chimney has always been a blot on the landscape which has now disappeared.
“It served its purpose but I think it will look a lot nicer now it’s gone. We thought it would fall in a different way but it was very exciting.”
People of all ages braved the early start to see the historic event.
Sam Pym, 11, from Westbury, said: “It was the excitement which made me want to come and watch it.
“It was even better than I thought it would be, I didn’t think it would fall the way it did.
“It was tough getting up so early but it was worth it.”
He wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it – Alfie Lennon, seven, from Chippenham, said: “I really enjoyed watching it come down. It was a bit of rush getting here though – I’m still in my pyjamas.
“We got up at 5.20am and got to the top of the hill only about a minute before it was blown up.”
From Tarmac’s point of view, it was a very successful operation, explained Stuart Wykes, the company’s Director of Land and Resources.
He said: “We had a fantastic team leading up to the event making sure everything would go to plan.
“A lot of work and preparation was involved to make sure it was a smooth operation and we’re pleased it went well.
“There was a great atmosphere here and more people than we expected, it is a very iconic landmark which has been there for a long time.
“It was lovely seeing Lily press the button.”
Lily, nine, said: "It was really exciting. I'm both sad and happy now it's over, I'm glad I got to do it.
"Getting up that early wasn't easy but it was worth it.
"I'm looking forward to telling my friends about it at school tomorrow, I think the head teacher is going to show pictures
to the whole school in assembly."
REPORTER - ROBIN MURRAY- Wiltshire Times