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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:

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!

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