CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today CLICK HERE

Forever Shaftesbury

PUBLISHED: 12:23 27 April 2009 | UPDATED: 11:39 28 February 2013

Gold Hill

Gold Hill

Discover with Edward Griffiths the ancient traditions and 21st-century delights of this charming town

Roadside welcome signs tell visitors that Shaftesbury is a 'Saxon Hilltop Town'. Indeed, the 'bones' of this lovely town are so rock-solid and ancient that the many improvements and developments over the past few years, whilst making Shaftesbury more attractive to visitors and residents alike, haven't changed the town's unique historic appeal at all.

At the turn of the century, people from St James's suburb - almost a separate village below the immense stone-buttressed retaining walls of Shaftesbury Abbey - climbed Gold Hill to the top town's street markets and shops, as their forefathers had done before them. On the way, there always seemed time for a chat with Gold Hill's resident ladies in their long skirts, predominantly white blouses and white aprons. Another route to town was up Stoney Path and Pine Walk, arriving at the west end of Park Walk, a delightful terrace with colourful gardens, which were laid out in 1753.

In the 1930s, shoppers and visitors parked their cars along High Street, outside the Town Hall and up to The Commons. The Town Hall still had its iron railings and archway then, but these were soon given up for the war effort. Shaftesbury's 21st-century town centre is much brighter these days. Around the Town Hall, Thursday markets and Farmers' Markets keep up Shaftesbury's ancient traditions, and people from St James's still climb Gold Hill to the busy shops. On the way, they meet friends and visitors enjoying al fresco dining with fabulous views down Gold Hill.

Some parts of High Street and The Commons have recently been pedestrianised but above and between the attractive shop-fronts, Shaftesbury's historic architecture is still there to be admired. Every July, it's the annual Gold Hill Fair, when Park Walk is filled with colourful stalls, and jazz bands and local groups perform on stage down at St James's.

This year, on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 May, Shaftesbury is staging its Fifth Local Food Festival, incorporating the Farmers' Market on the Saturday. Organiser Tamara Essex says: "The Festival brings together local farmers and other producers to promote the best in local food. Local bands and schools running games and competitions will provide the entertainment. At the Local Chef Competition in the Guild Hall, visitors can watch the chefs demonstrating their signature dishes."

Shaftesbury Town Museum, at the top of Gold Hill, is packed with items of local interest illustrating Shaftesbury's long history. The Museum is currently working on ambitious plans for a Renovation and Redevelopment Project at its listed building.

Following its application for Heritage Lottery funding, the search is continuing for contributions and partnership funding. The project will widen the understanding of Shaftesbury's heritage through improvements to visitor and volunteer facilities, with exhibitions throughout the museum, access to its archives and library for research and education, and the creation of a workspace for group visits, particularly for educational purposes.

The aim is to launch the new museum in April 2011. For further details about this project, visit or e-mail

Many thanks to Anna McDowell at Shaftesbury Museum for assistance and permission to use the Museum's photographs.

Shaftesbury Museum

is open until 31 October 10.30am-4.30pm. Adults £1 Children free.

(01747 852157.

Do you have your own memories of Shaftesbury's past?

If so, tell us about them on our forum at

Make the most of your time in Shaftesbury...

• Visit Swan's Yard, for craft and coffee shops.

• Local Food Festival 2 and 3 May - details from

• 7 June - Town & Country Fayre at Motcombe's Turnpike Showground. Country crafts, terrier racing, heavy horses, vintage cars, craft and trade stalls.

• 4 and 5 July - Gold Hill Fair. Grand parade, rousing music of the Wessex Highlanders, circus workshop, music in the park, plus medieval event on Gold Hill on the Sunday.

• 19 August - Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show.

• Visit nearby Compton Abbas Airfield, one of the most picturesque airfields in the UK, for glorious panoramic views over Shaftesbury and surrounding countryside. There's a restaurant there too, for refreshments.


More from Out & About

From your first step, you will see superb views from hilltops and farmland footpaths on this walk

Read more
Sunday, November 11, 2018

Martin Clunes and his family have called West Dorset home for over two decades. Here he shares some of their favourite local places

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

To mark the centenary of the end of World War One we visit some of the memorials erected across Dorset to remember the fallen in the ‘war to end all wars’

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

This lovely walk takes us from watercress beds to a church famous for its life-size carvings of apostles

Read more
Thursday, October 25, 2018

Autumn is a great time to brush up on your gardening knowledge with the help of some experts, as well as see some well known gardens in a different light

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The guide to Dorset’s best firework displays and bonfire events happening in 2018

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Prepare to experience the paranormal this Hallowe’en as Visit Dorset reveals some of the county’s most haunted pubs, stately homes, historic buildings and tanks

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

From festive light switch-ons and Santa’s Grottos, to German Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Dorset this season

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

Dorset villages are some of the most beautiful in England – think winding lanes, thatched cottages and a cosy pub or welcoming tea room. We suggest ten of the prettiest villages to visit in the county

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

Follow in the footsteps of the Romans on this lovely walk that takes in rare habitat, ancient woodland and glorious views

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This challenging coastal walk rewards your efforts with spectacular views along the Jurassic Coast

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Marine photographer Steve Belasco shares some very special wildlife moments

Read more
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TravelSupermarket has uncovered the top 25 most popular UK beaches on Instagram after analysing hashtags used for over 1,100 beaches and Bournemouth comes out on top

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ride + Stride, Dorset Historic Churches Trust’s annual fundraising event, is a great way to explore and support some of the county’s more unusual places of worship

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search