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Gold Hill

Shaftesbury is a town in north Dorset, England, near the Wiltshire border. The town is built 750 feet (over 200 metres) above sea level on the side of a chalk hill, which is part of Cranbourne Chase, and is one of the oldest and highest towns in Britain. The town looks over the Blackmore Vale, part of the river Stour basin. The A30 and A350 roads cross in the town.

In 1991 the town had a population of 6,209 with 2,604 dwellings and 74 shops. The town currently has 4 first schools, a middle school and an upper school, but this is soon to change to 5 primary schools and an enlarged secondary school. Major employers include Dorset foods, Stalbridge linin, HMYOI Guy's Marsh, Wessex Electrical and the Royal Mail.

The town is famous for Gold Hill, a steep cobbled street featured on the cover of countless books about Dorset and rural england, and the site of advertisements for Hovis bread. The town is also famous for its ruined Abbey and nearby Wardour castle.

A market is held in the town on Thursdays. The Blackmore Vale is Thomas Hardy's Vale of the Little Dairies, and Shaftesbury is one of the few Britsh towns that still has a cattle market, though this may soon be demolished to make way for a second supermarket.

Table of contents
1 History
2 External Links:


Although Shaftesbury historically dates from Anglo-Saxon times, it may have been the Celtic Caer Palladur. Its first recorded appearance as a town is in the Burgal Hideage. Alfred the Great founded a Burgh (fortified settlement) here in 880 as a defence in the struggle with the Danish invaders. Alfred and his daughter Ethelgiva founded the Shaftesbury Abbey in 888, which was a spur to the growing importance of the town. Athelstan founded three royal mints, which struck pennies bearing the town's name, and the abbey became the wealthiest Benedictine nunnery in England. In 1240 Cardinal Otto, legate to the Apostolic See of Pope Gregory IX visited the abbey and confirmed a charter of 1191, the first entered in the Glastonbury chartulary.

King Canute died here in 1035. In the Domesday Book the town was known as Scaepterbyrg its ownership being equally shared between King and Abbey. The Abbey was in the middle ages the central focus of the town. The shrine of St Edward, who is interned here, attracted pilgrims from afar.

In 1260 a charter to hold a market was granted. In 1392 Richard II confirmed a grant of two markets on different days.

By 1340 the mayor had become a recognised figure, sworn in by the Steward of the Abbess.

In 1539 the last Abbess of Shaftesbury, Elizabeth Zouche signed a deed of surrender and the abbey was demolished, and its lands sold, leading to a temporary decline in the town. Sir Thomas Arundel of Wardour purchased the abbey and much of the town in 1540, but when he was later exiled for treason his lands were forfeit and the lands passed to Pembroke then Cooper and finally the Grosvenors.

Shaftesbury was a parliamentary constituency returning two members from 1296 to the Reform Act of 1832, when it was reduced to one, and in 1884 the separate constituency was abolished.

The town was broadly parliamentarian in the Civil War, but was in royalist hands. Wardour Castle fell to Parliamentary forces in 1643; Parliamentary forces surrounded the town in August 1645 when it was a centre of local Clubmen activity. The clubmen were arrested and sent to trial in Sherborne. Shaftesbury took no part in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685.

The town hall was built in 1827 by Earl Grosvenor after the Guildhall was pulled down to widen the high street.

The major employers in the 18th and 19th centuries were buttonmaking and weaving. The former became a victim of mechanisation, and this caused unemployment and emigration.

The five turnpikes which met at Shaftesbury ensured that the town had a good coaching trade. The railways, however, bypassed Shaftesbury, and this infuenced the sunsequent pattern of its growth.

In 1919 Lord Stalbridge sold a large portion of the town, which was purchased by a syndicate and auctioned piece by piece over three days.

It is the Shaston of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure.

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Other places called Shaftesbury:
There are a number of Lords of Shaftesbury: