Shaftesbury (/ˈʃɑːftzbəri/), sometimes known locally as Shaston (/ˈʃæstən/), is a town in Dorset, England, situated on the A30 road near the Wiltshire border 20 miles west of Salisbury. The town is built 718 feet (219 metres) above sea level on the side of a chalk and greensand hill, which is part of Cranborne Chase, the only significant hilltop settlement in Dorset. It is one of the oldest and highest towns in Britain.

In 2001, the town had a population of 6,665 with 3,112 dwellings, only a small increase from 1991. There are currently 2 primary schools and an enlarged secondary school. Major employers include Pork Farms, Stalbridge Linen (a commercial laundry), Guys Marsh Prison, Wessex Electrical and the Royal Mail.

In Bimport stands the Westminster Memorial Hospital, a small community hospital which has about 20 beds, an accident and emergency department (not 24 hrs) and a range of out-patient clinics. It was constructed in the mid-19th century with a legacy from the then Duke of Westminster.

Many of the older buildings in the town are of the local greensand, while others built from the grey Chilmark limestone, much of which was salvaged from the demolished Shaftesbury Abbey, and have thatched roofs. Tourism is one of the main industries in the town.

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.

The town is famous for Gold Hill, a steep cobbled street featured on the cover of countless books about Dorset and rural England. It was perhaps most famously used as the street in the popular Ridley Scott-directed Hovis bread advertisement used through the 1970s and 1980s. The hill most recently featured in a Morrisons supermarket advert, also for 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. The town features in Thomas Hardy's Wessex with the names Shaston and Palladour, of particular significance in Jude the Obscure.

Actor Robert Newton, best known for his portrayals of Long John Silver and Bill Sikes in the 1948 David Lean film Oliver Twist, was born in Shaftesbury.

Read more about Shaftesbury:  History, Economy, Sport and Leisure

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