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Shaftesbury in Dorset

Image 1 for Shaftesbury in Dorset Shaftesbury, a delightful old borough in North Dorset, only 1 mile from Wiltshire and 5 miles from Somerset, probably best known for Gold Hill. This ancient cobbled street, running beside the walls of King Alfred's abbey, features on countless chocolate boxes and calendars, and made famous in the Hovis advert some years ago (complete with a northern accent!!!)

Shaftesbury sits on a spur, overlooking the Blackmore Vale, Thomas Hardy's "Vale of Little Dairies". Shaftesbury was known as Shaston in his novels, and Jude the Obscure was set here.

This history of Shaftesbury goes back to Saxon times (although there were undoubtedly settlements here before that), it became wealthy & famous by the establishment of a Benedictine abbey by King Alfred (he of the burnt cakes). His daughter became the first abbess. The burial there of the Saxon King Edward, murdered by his mother and declared a martyr, drew pilgrims from far and wide, making Shaftesbury Abbey the richest in England. The abbey was destroyed in Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. From Castle Hill you can see the monument erected in the 19th century to mark the spot where Alfred raised the army that eventually defeated the Danes.

In the 1930s bones, believed to be those of King Edward the Martyr, were found in the abbey ruins. These bones are now kept in a bank vault in London by the family of the then owners of the abbey ruins.

The population of the Town has increased to around 5,500, there having been much recent housing development to the east of the town. Development to the west of the town is severely restricted, because of the desire to protect the slopes, and the dramatic views of the town as you approach from the south and west. The High Street remains a flourishing, old fashioned street, with excellent shopping and old fashioned service. Despite the newer housing developments the old Town retains a very special historic character much valued by locals and visitors alike.

Views from Castle Hill and Park Walk are absolutely breath taking, at any time of the year. Walking in the area is wonderful, the more so because of the old green roads that run along the tops of ridges towards Salisbury, the Ox Drove and the Ridgeway. The National Trust owns land at Melbury Downs and a short walk to the top of the Beacon provides a commanding panorama across Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire with a stunning view of the Saxon Hilltop town to the north-west

Whilst Shaftesbury sits at 600 feet above sea level, on the top of the hill, there are 2 areas known collectively by the county planners as "the settlements at the foot of the slopes" - Enmore Green, and St James. St James is a set of attractive streets, and thatched cottages at the foot of Gold Hill. Enmore Green, despite being so close to Shaftesbury, retains its village atmosphere. Until the 1920s it wasn't part of Shaftesbury at all. Because Shaftesbury has no water of its own, until about 100 years ago water was obtained from springs in Enmore Green, and carried back up Tout Hill into Shaftesbury. Tout Hill used to be the Exeter to London road, and extra teams of horses would be attached at the Fountain Inn, to get up the hill.

There are some good old hostelries in the Town:

  • The Grosvenor.
    A fine example of an old coaching inn. offers food and dancing in the new nightclub bar. Usually good draught beers on tap including Ringwood Best and 49er - favoured haunt of top Shaftesbury batsman David Toogood.

  • The Fountain
    At the bottom of Tout Hill in Enmore Green. Lively bar aimed at a younger crowd but with a good atmosphere and some reasonable ales. Does have a unique atmosphere, although be quiet when you leave as the very irritable Terry Warder lives close- by

  • The Ship.
    A rambling old building, it was once a Victorian doctor's surgery. It serves a a good selection of real ales. Haunt of some rather quaint Dorset characters but alas not much frequented by the players

  • The Kings Arms
    Imposing greensand Inn standing in the heart of Town in the main car park. Large bar and restaurant with skittle alley and function Room. Serves Hall and Woodhouse Beers. Gets busy on Friday and Saturday nights but at other times offers a pleasant environment. Buy a pint for the bloke holding forth loudly at the end of the bar on a friday evening - probably the Chairman or Vice Chairman.

  • The Two Brewers
    Standing only yards from the famous Gold Hill this old Inn is ideal for families. A good beer garden with views across the vale, a restaurant area and a characterful public bar area makes it popular with the website adminstrator. Always a good selection of well kept real ales on tap. Try and catch the Hopback Summer Lightening! Skittle Alley out the back.

  • The Mitre
    Situated in the High Street just yards from the Town Hall and the top of Gold Hill. A recent refurbishment has given this pub a new lease of life. Some of the old character has gone but the bar now offers good food and real ales and it has a beer garden and decked terrace with unparalelled views to rival even those of the Drunken Duck in the Lakes (if you know it you will understand). Come and meet the Shaftesbury Cricket Team here on Saturday and Sunday nights after 8.00 pm!

  • The Crown
    Situated in the High Street on the other side of the road from the Mitre. Serves a selection of Badger Ales, including its regular summer guest - Champion Ale. As traditional as English pubs ever get - authentic and welcoming.

  • The Half Moon
    Situated on the main A30 roundabout as you enter the Town from the South. An old coaching inn now mainly catering for the passing trade of motorists. Good menu and Badger Beers. Nice atmoshpere inside.
Milts once did all eight pubs with a pint in each in 1 hour 23 minutes, still to this day a Shaston Record. Milts always responds to a challenge so if any of you think you can wrestle this title away from him contact the Club for an official time keeper. There is not much chance of Milts ever reclaiming the title once it is gone - his running between the pubs is not what it once was!