Shaftesbury is perched on a hill high above Dorset’s gentle Blackmore Vale and has one of the most beautiful and commanding settings of any market town in England, with a charm and history that is unrivalled. Founded over 1100 years ago as the site of King Alfred’s citadel Benedictine Abbey, and today largely unchanged since the 18th century, the town is a treasure trove for all.
Located on ancient trade routes, Shaftesbury has been a market centre for centuries, and today there is still a charter market on Thursdays. Regular Farmers’ Markets, book fairs, flee markets, plus monthly Sunday Markets all add to the wonderful bustling atmosphere of the town. Shaftesbury has a wide selection of quality cafes, pubs and restaurants and proudly boasts a High Street filled with independent shops offering everything you need from gifts to clothes, home furnishings to local produce.
Gold Hill Gold Hill is a steep cobbled street and it is famous for its picturesque appearance; the view looking down from the top of the street has been described as “one of the most romantic sights in England.” The street is the main setting for the 1973 “Boy on a Bike” television advertisement for Hovis Bread, which has been voted Britain’s favourite advertisement of all time, it was directed by Ridley Scott. For this reason, the hill is still known to many people as “Hovis Hill” The tops of some of the houses along gold hill are on the cover of J.K. Rowling’s book “The Casual Vacancy”.
Park WalkPark Walk has far reaching views over St James and across the Blackmore Vale. On a clear day, you can see for miles across the Dorset skyline. Park Walk is a popular place to meet and relax around this historic market town.
Shaftesbury Abbey The award-winning museum tells the story from its early beginning through to its abrupt end at the hands of Henry VIII. Experience the interactive virtual tour, see the casket thought to hold Edward’s remains, touch relics and be guided by an audio tour. Outside, wander through the foundations of the Abbey Church and sample the unique aromas of the Anglo-Saxon herb collection in the peaceful walled garden. Visit the Museum shop where you will find books, cards, gifts and plants. Open daily from 10am to 5pm from Easter to end October For more information, click here www.shaftesburyabbey.org.uk
This is a unique project to create Britain’s first ‘Snowdrop Town’. Snowdrops are hugely popular, with private estates throughout the country opening their grounds annually to visitors. Shaftesbury is ideally located as a stopover point in the heart of the most beautiful Snowdrop Walks in the South West. The vision is to create a series of free and accessible Snowdrop walks by planting hundreds of thousands of Snowdrops within the publicly open spaces and along the pathways throughout the town. Shaftesbury Snowdrops is a project of Swans Trust (Shaftesbury). For more information click here www.shaftesburysnowdrops.org
Gold Hill Museum & Garden Nestled in a traditional sandstone cottage at the top of the famous Gold Hill is this fascinating museum. What was life like for a Shastonian? Well, it’s portrayed here through artefacts, costume, photos, ceramics, tools, domestic items, the town’s first fire engine and a mummified cat! Dorset buttons are also on display and the ‘Byzant’, a gold-coloured festival totem that played a central role in the town’s water gathering ceremony. Outside is the Museum’s beautiful award-winning cottage style garden where you can sit and relax. Entrance is FREE and it is open daily from 10.30am to 4.30pm. from Easter to end October For more information click here www.goldhillmuseum.org.uk
Shaftesbury Arts Centre Established in 1957 in the old covered market at 13 Bell Street, in the centre of the medieval Dorset market town, Shaftesbury Arts Centre (01747 854321) is widely recognised as one of the best volunteer membership-led arts centres in south west England. Its regular, varied and lively year-round programme of amateur and professional plays, films, art, photography and craft exhibitions, workshops, and training courses draws people from far and wide including Wiltshire and Somerset. It is also increasingly taking the arts out into the community. Their website tells you all you need to know about what it does and when, who to contact and where, how you can get involved, the people behind it, and what it hopes to do in future: www.shaftesburyartscentre.org.uk
Holy Trinity Church Holy Trinity church is situated in Bimport and was completely rebuilt on the old site in 1842. It is built in the Early English style and comprised nave, aisles, north and south galleries, choir, north and south porches and square embattled western tower, 100 feet in height, with pinnacles and containing six bells. It could seat 834 people. Now, however, the building has been converted for community use and is the home of many groups, including the Scouts and a Day Centre for senior citizens. The churchyard of the Holy Trinity still contains three handsome avenues of lime trees
St James’ Church The church of St James was completely rebuilt in 1866-67 at a cost of £3,350. It consists of a nave, chancel, vestry, aisles, north porch and an embattled western tower 65 feet in height, with four pinnacles and containing a clock and six bells. The pulpit is of oak and elaborately carved. The registers date from 1559
St Peter’s Church St Peters is the most ancient of all the churches in Shaftesbury and stands in the High Street. The registers date from 1623. It was built in the latter part of the 15th century but, by 1878, the interior was pronounced unsafe and it was not in use for many years. In 1897 the floor and seating was renewed and further work was carried out in the early 20th century. In more recent years major roof repairs, internal re-ordering and an organ overhaul have been undertaken