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Removals and storage in Shaftesbury, Dorset

Pitmans offer house removals and commercial removals in Shaftesbury, Dorset, with specialist packing services for antiques and fine art. Whether it’s a full house move or a single item, within the UK or across Europe, we offer a professional, safe and friendly service with full insurance, giving you peace of mind throughout the process.

Shaftesbury: A potted history

Shaftesbury is a town and civil parish on the A30, 20 miles west of Salisbury, near to the border with Wiltshire. It is the only significant hilltop settlement in Dorset, being built about 215 metres above sea level on a greensand hill on the edge of Cranborne Chase.

The town looks over the Blackmore Vale, part of the River Stour basin. From different viewpoints, it is possible to see at least as far as Glastonbury Tor to the northwest.

Shaftesbury is the site of the former Shaftesbury Abbey, which was founded in 888 by King Alfred and became one of the richest religious establishments in the country, before being destroyed in the Dissolution in 1539. Adjacent to the abbey site is Gold Hill, the steep cobbled street made famous in the 1970s as the setting for Ridley Scott’s television advertisement for Hovis bread.

In the 2011 census the town’s civil parish had a population of 7,314.

Writing of Shaftesbury in 1906 in his book Highways & Byways in Dorset, Sir Frederick Treves referred to several different names for the town:

The city has had many names. It was, in the beginning, Caer Palladour. By the time of the Domesday Book it was Sceptesberie. It then, with all the affectation of a lady in an 18th-century lyric, called itself Sophonia. Lastly it became Shaston, and so the people call it to this day, while all the milestones around concern themselves only with recording the distances to “Shaston”.

Some of these names may have been used more than others. The town was recorded in the Domesday Book as Sceptesberie, and the use of Shaston was recorded in 1831 in Samuel Lewis’s A Topographical Dictionary of England and in 1840 in The parliamentary gazetteer of England and Wales. Thomas Hardy used both Shaston and Palladour to refer to the town in the fictional Wessex of his novels such as Jude the Obscure (“Caer Palladour” in the Brythonic language is “Caer Vynnydd y Paladr” or “The Hillfort of the Spears”), though the general use of “Palladour” was described by one 19th-century directory as “mere invention”.

In 888 Alfred founded Shaftesbury Abbey, a Benedictine nunnery by the town’s east gate, and appointed his daughter Ethelgifu as the first abbess. Athelstan founded two royal mints, which struck pennies bearing the town’s name, and the abbey became the wealthiest Benedictine nunnery in England. On 20 February 981 the relics of St Edward the Martyr, the teenage King of England, were transferred from Wareham and received at the abbey with great ceremony, thereafter turning Shaftesbury into a major site of pilgrimage for miracles of healing.

King Canute died here in 1035, though he was buried at Winchester. Edward the Confessor licensed a third mint for the town. By the time of the Norman conquest in 1066 Shaftesbury had 257 houses, though many were destroyed in the ensuing years of conflict, and by the time the Domesday Book was compiled 20 years later, there were only 177 houses remaining, though this still meant that Shaftesbury was the largest town in Dorset at that time. Around this time the town’s ownership was equally shared between king and abbey. In the first English civil war (1135-1154) between Empress Matilda and King Stephen, an adulterine castle or fortified house was built on a small promontory at the western edge of the hill on which the old town was built. The site on Castle Hill, also known locally as Boltbury, is now under grass and is a scheduled monument.

In 1260 a charter to hold a market was granted. By 1340 the mayor had become a recognised figure, sworn in by the steward of the abbess. In 1392 Richard II confirmed a grant of two markets on different days. Edwardstow, Shaftesbury’s oldest surviving building, was built on Bimport at some time between 1400 and 1539. Also in this period a medieval farm owned by the Abbess of Shaftesbury was established, on a site now occupied by the Tesco supermarket car park.

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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.

In the 17th century the cloth industry formed part of Shaftesbury’s economy, though much of the actual production took place as a cottage industry in the surrounding area. In the 18th century the town produced a coarse white woollen cloth called ‘swanskin’, that was used by fishermen of Newfoundland and for uniforms. Button-making also became important around this time, though with the later advent of industrialisation this subsequently declined, resulting in unemployment, starvation and emigration, with 350 families leaving for Canada. Malting and brewing were also significant in the 17th and 18th centuries, and like other Dorset towns such as Dorchester and Blandford Forum, Shaftesbury became known for its beer.

The town hall was built in 1827 by Earl Grosvenor after the guildhall was pulled down to widen High Street. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II listed building. The town hall is next to the 15th-century St Peter’s Church. The Westminster Memorial Hospital was constructed on Bimport in the mid-19th century with a legacy from the wife of the Duke of Westminster.

In 1918 Lord Stalbridge sold a large portion of the town, which was purchased by a syndicate and auctioned piece by piece over three days.

Most of Shaftesbury’s buildings date from no earlier than the 18th century, as the Saxon and most of the medieval buildings have not survived.

During the 1950s and onwards a large amount of low-cost housing has been established around the outskirts of Shaftesbury.

A site has been identified for a projected parkway station on the West of England main railway line. It would be situated to the north of the town, beneath the A350 road, and a bus service would connect it with the town. Currently the nearest railway station is located in neighbouring Gillingham.

In the 2011 census Shaftesbury’s civil parish had 3,493 dwellings, 3,235 households and a population of 7,314. The average age of inhabitants was 43, compared to 39.3 for England as a whole. 22.1% of inhabitants were age 65 or older, compared to 16.4% for England as a whole. 92% of Shaftesbury’s residents were born in the United Kingdom, compared to 86.2% for England as a whole.

Shaftesbury Arts Centre was established in 1957 and stages a variety of exhibitions, performances, workshops and training courses. It is based in the old covered market in the town centre and is a charitable company that is run wholly by its volunteer members.

Shaftesbury has two museums: Gold Hill Museum at the top of Gold Hill, and Shaftesbury Abbey Museum in the abbey grounds. Gold Hill Museum was founded in 1946 and displays many artefacts that relate to the history of Shaftesbury and the surrounding area, including Dorset’s oldest fire engine, dating from 1744. Shaftesbury Abbey Museum tells the story of the abbey and also has a herb garden and medieval orchard.

Gold Hill Fair usually occurs in the first weekend of July and has food stalls, arts stalls and local music that can be found in the abbey ruins.

In the 1970s Ridley Scott used Gold Hill, a steep cobbled street in the town, as the setting for a television advertisement for Hovis bread, in which a bread delivery boy is seen pushing his bicycle up the street before freewheeling back down. The advertisement made the street nationally famous.

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