Sitting proudly on top of a hilly promontory on the Dorset/Wiltshire border, is an ancient Saxon market town of tremendous historic interest as well as being a lovely place to live or visit. However, it is one street that really puts Shaftesbury on the map even though this modest twisting cobbled lane only has buildings on one side and requires a certain amount of effort to climb up and down due to its steepness.

Gold Hill Shaftesbury

Gold Hill is one of the most iconic and recognisable streets in the country although many people don’t actually know where this romanticised idyll of a traditional English country town is. With its higgledy piggledy period cottages and sweeping backdrop of the beautiful countryside of North Dorset’s Blackmore Vale, it has appeared on countless chocolate boxes, biscuit tins and calendars.

Gold Hill really came to fame in 1973 as the star of director Ridley Scott’s television advertisement for Hovis bread showing a young grocer boy valiantly pushing his bike up the steep hill to make his deliveries to the musical accompaniment of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9. In 2006 it was voted by the public as the most loved advertisement ever. Ironically the voiceover was made in a Northern accent and the music performed by a brass band giving the impression that the scene was actually in Yorkshire rather than Dorset!

The history of Shaftesbury, Dorset

Shaftesbury was established in the 9th Century by Alfred the Great as a fortified settlement where he also founded a nunnery for his daughter Ethelgifu in 888. The abbey was the burial place in 979 of Edward II, known as Edward the Martyr, who was murdered at Corfe Castle and is also where King Canute died in 1035. The stone wall bordering Gold Hill is believed to be part of the defences of the abbey which was destroyed following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.

With the loss of the abbey, Shaftesbury’s prosperity faded and in the 17th and 18th Centuries its economy was based mainly on cloth and button making, brewing and as a coaching hub. Nowadays the town is a vibrant community and has many excellent amenities including a range of independent shops, boutiques, cafes, restaurants and inns as well as a large supermarket and a twice weekly farmer’s market on the broad High Street. There are also doctors and dentist surgeries, a cottage hospital, an arts centre, sports facilities and reputable state run primary and secondary schools. The town is immortalised in the World of literature as Thomas Hardy’s ‘Shaston’.

When the Tudor guildhall was pulled down in 1827 to widen the High Street, the Earl of Grosvenor built a new one in a commanding position at the top of Gold Hill with the salt cellar underneath it now a café serving delicious meals and a great place from which to enjoy the fine views. Originally Gold Hill was one of the main means of accessing the town but this building blocks the way to anything but pedestrian traffic. Adjacent to it is the small but fascinating Gold Hill Museum and St Peters, a fine 14th Century church.

Shaftesbury today

Before venturing up Gold Hill, one might want to fuel up at Ye Olde Two Brewers pub on St James’s Street, a lane of pretty stone cottages. On arriving at the top, one can reward oneself with a drink at The Mitre Inn or at one of the many tea rooms on the High Street. For fine dining there is the Grosvenor Arms, a smart boutique hotel and a favourite place to stay for the London set.

Located towards the lower end of Gold Hill and accessible by car is Folly Cottage, a late Victorian end-of-terrace cottage which is on the market with Rural View. The modest red brick exterior belies the extent and charming character of the accommodation inside. Stylishly refurbished in recent years, the property enjoys a lovely outlook at the back and offers scope to make further improvements including converting the existing top floor studio room into a fourth bedroom. The guide price is £425,000 and more information is available from the town property estate agents Rural View on 01722 716895.


In a recent article, I urged anyone venturing into the property market to appoint a solicitor as soon as possible and preferably before, so as to pre-empt any issues and ensure a speedy transaction. The same goes for property financing and this applies to both buyers and sellers.

Before one starts looking to buy a new home, it is of course important to know what budget you have at your disposal. Looking at houses that are beyond your realistic reach or leaves you too stretched may lead to disappointment. Living in a splendid mansion might not be such a great idea if you end up only being able to heat one room.

Indeed, there’s an argument to say that you should n’t view until you have a mortgage offer agreed in principle. Having one demonstrates that you have investigated your finances and gives a prospective vendor confidence that you are able to buy their home.

On the other hand you might be pleasantly surprised to find that you have more funding available than you thought and can afford a grander home than you had anticipated.

For straight forward information on the basic principles of the mortgage process and what’s involved, the different types of interest rates and repayment vehicles, as well as the costs to consider, get in touch with Rural View or click on the link for a free Consumer Guide to Mortgages.

For those sellers who are downsizing or disposing of a property altogether, what are you going to do with the surplus after the sale? Other than blowing it all in Las Vegas, thought needs to be given as to the most appropriate investments and whether this is to provide an income or capital growth. Alternatively if it is being given to family members, what’s the most efficient way of doing so and will there be any tax implications?

The World of finance can be a complex place even for the most experienced and savvy borrower or investor, so a good starting point is to seek the input of a financial adviser.

The days of having a chat with your local bank manager are just about over and it is generally considered best to talk to an independent expert who has access to the whole of the mortgage, investment, pension and insurance markets so as to be able to source the most attractive and appropriate financial products for your own personal circumstances.

I stress the word independent above. You might have been with the same building society, insurer etc. for years but are they are offering you the best rates or terms that are right for you? Is your current advisor tied to just one or a limited number of providers?

Rather like choosing the right solicitor or estate agent, it is important that your financial adviser instils in you a feeling of confidence and trust. When selecting one, check the range of financial products they deal with, their experience, independence and what fees you will have to pay.

Let us know if you would like the names of any local independent financial advisers or mortgage consultants.

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