Photo By Peter Watts

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Panorama of Shaftesbury town square taken in the afternoon during July 2007. The town is very pretty and a very popular tourist destination, full of history and offering amazing views over Dorset. This is one of the northern most towns in Dorset, and was very relaxed and quiet at the time I was there.


Shaftesbury - Shaftesbury visitor guide showing a virtual tour of 'Shaftesbury' linked to an interactive map with local and travel information. 360° panoramas from Dorset.

Shaftesbury is one of the highest towns in Dorset, situated on the top of a ridge between Salisbury and Sherborne, north of Blandford Forum in southern Engalnd. It is a very popular tourist attraction due to the strong association with the author Thomas Hardy (Shaftesbury is the 'Shaston' in his novels) and the town dominates what he called the 'elegant and secluded' Blackmore Vale.

The most famous part of Shaftesbury is Gold Hill, used by Hovis, a bread manufacturer, to epitomize the wholesomeness of their bread. This steep, cobbled road is lined with cottages with a view over the surrounding hills. The town center contains many old buildings built from local stone. This panorama shows the town center, showing the old city hall. To the left of this is St. Peter's Church. A narrow lane runs between the hall and the church to Gold Hill. Off to the right is Park Walk and the remains of Shaftesbury Abbey in the Gold Hill Museum & Gardens, which is lined with a lovely walkway offering spectacular panoramic views over the Dorset hills. The large church near the city center has now been converted to offices and is called the Trinity Centre.

Shaftesbury - A Brief History

Shaftesbury is a hill town built on an excellent defensive position on a Greensand spur overlooking the Blackmore Vale. This spur is up to 700ft high and there are steep 100ft slopes on every side except the north east. There has been a defended settlement (burh) here since the 9th Century. King Alfred established a nunnery here for one of his daughters and probably established the burh as part of the defensive settlements on the border of Wessex. The burh is not thought to be covered by one of the suburbs. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the imaginative early medieval historian ,was convinced that the town was founded in 950 B.C. by a grandfather of King Lear.

By the 14th Century, Shaftesbury was one of the most populated towns in Dorset. Since 978 the bones of Edward the Martyr had lain within the nunnery and the town became a famous place of pilgrimage as a result. In time it became the richest Benedictine nunnery in the country with more than 120 nuns living here in 1326. Only one of the 12 churches in the town now survives, this is , next to the Town Hall.

In his book Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy described Shaftesbury as "one of the queerest and quaintest spots" with limitless landscape of the Blackmore Vale around it. At the time the town had 12 churches, mints, a shrine, chantries (institutional chapels on private land), hospitals and large mansions. These have mostly been lost and destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530's


Shatesbury Tourist Information Centre
8 Bell Street
Tel: 01747 853 514


Shaftesbury is about 20 miles from Salisbury on the A30. It is 12 miles from Blandford Forum and 16 miles from Sherborne on the A30.

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