King Alfred: Man and Myth – the facts at Shaftesbury Town Hall Tuesday 03 October 7.30p.m.

One of two English kings named “The Great”; saviour of Anglo-Saxon Wessex from the Danes; creator of a chain of fortified “burhs” including Shaftesbury; founder of Shaftesbury Abbey; law-maker, scholar and father of the English navy. Alfred’s list of achievements is long and impressive, but how much of his reputation is based on contemporary spin and image-building by later generations? Noted historian of the Anglo-Saxons, Professor Barbara Yorke of the University of Winchester, will consider the real and the legendary King Alfred in her illustrated lecture for The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society at Shaftesbury Town Hall on Tuesday 03 October at 7.30p.m. The first of the Society’s winter series, this lecture is free to members while non-members may pay £5 at the door.

Chairman David Silverside with Trip Advisor Certficate of Excellence

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for Gold Hill Museum

Travel website TripAdvisor has awarded its Certificate of Excellence for 2017 to Gold Hill Museum. 61% of nearly 200 contributors to the website rated the Museum as “excellent” while the average score was 4.5 out of 5. The most recent reviewers enthused about a “brilliant MUST VISIT museum with FREE entry.” Chairman David Silverside, pictured in the Museum Garden with Certificate, was “exceptionally proud that the dedicated work of our 60 volunteers has been recognised. The Museum offers something to interest all ages – film footage of D Day tanks rolling along Shaftesbury High Street, Dorset’s oldest fire engine, and photographs and paintings showing how the town’s appearance has altered.” Shaftesbury’s top tourist attraction, according to TripAdvisor, is open daily 10.30a.m. to 4.30p.m. until 31 October.

2017-18 Programme

Lord Mayor and Diplomat Feature in New Season of History Lectures

Contributors to the 2017-18 programme of Shaftesbury & District Historical Society lectures include a popular local history writer, a former Lord Mayor of London, an Ambassador to Japan, two leading academics, and a student of statues. The historical subjects covered include Dorset Smugglers, William Beckford Senior, Statues within 50 miles of Shaftesbury, Shakespeare’s Guildhall, and a 13th century Abbess of Shaftesbury. Professor Barbara Yorke of the University of Winchester starts the season at Shaftesbury Town Hall at 7.30p.m. on Tuesday 03 October with an assessment of King Alfred: Man and Myth. Lectures are free to S&DHS members while non-members may pay at the door.

Centenary of Passchendaele Remembered

Researcher Chris Stupples has listed 31 men from Shaftesbury and District who died in the ill-fated Allied offensive of autumn 1917, known also as the Third Battle of Ypres. The display in Room 8 of Gold Hill Museum highlights brief biographies of eight: Privates Harry Gray, Walter Hodder, Arthur Mayo, and Tom Roberts; Gunners Charles King, Wilfred Merefield, and Frederick Sweeting; and Bombardier Frank Brine. The dates of their deaths recorded on local memorials span the full duration of the Battle from 31 July (Frank Brine) to 10 November (Tom Roberts). Five miles of swamp cost 300,000 Allied casualties.

Great Houses near Shaftesbury and their Owners

Local History Librarian and Archivist Ray Simpson has created a new display on the histories of great estates within easy reach of Shaftesbury. These include Old and New Wardour Castles (film locations for Robin Hood and Billy Elliott respectively), Ferne House at Donhead St Andrew, Pythouse (scene of a Swing Riot in 1830), Stourhead, and Fonthill. Most of William Beckford’s Gothic Fonthill Abbey (pictured) has disappeared and several of these properties are still privately owned. Ray’s exhibition is, however, easily accessible on the first floor landing outside the Library of Gold Hill Museum, 10.30 to 4.30 daily until October 31.

Alfred's only contemporary portrait

Alfred the Great comes third in BBC History Magazine Hot 100 List

Readers of BBC History Magazine have voted King Alfred, founder of Shaftesbury Abbey, into third place in the History Hot 100 for 2017. Alfred was pipped to the post by Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard III. Decide for yourself whether Alfred deserves this rating by attending this year’s Teulon Porter Memorial Lecture at Shaftesbury Town Hall at 7.30p.m. on Tuesday 03 October. Professor Barbara Yorke, Professor Emerita of Early Medieval History at the University of Winchester, will give an illustrated talk on King Alfred: Man and Myth. Professor Yorke, a leading and much-published expert on the Anglo-Saxons, is an engaging speaker. Admission is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society while non-members may pay £5 at the door.

Churchyard Statue (3)

Decapitated Statue – but where and of whom?

The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society is shortly to publish its programme of lectures for 2017-18. At 2.30 p.m. on 02 January 2018 in the Garden Room at Gold Hill Museum historian and writer Dave Martin will discuss Cast Bronze Reputations; statues in the Wessex street. Dave promises that all the statues featured will be visible to the public and within 50 miles of Shaftesbury. But where is the somewhat decayed stone statue in the photograph? (Please click on the image to see the whole statue.) Who is the headless figure and for what was he well-known? A year’s membership of The S&DHS for the first entirely correct answers submitted to Gold Hill Museum.

Trustees elected at 2017 AGM

King Alfred backs Trustees

At the July AGM of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society, four very good servants and supporters of Gold Hill Museum were elected or re-elected as Trustees. With King Alfred looking on, they were (from left to right) Ken Howe, Sheena Commons, Janet Swiss and Ray Simpson. After 15 years’ sterling service, John Parker has decided to retire. The Society would be delighted to hear from any volunteer willing to take on John’s Buildings brief, or one of several other important roles such as Fundraiser, Administrator, Lecture Co-ordinator, or Minutes Secretary. For further details, please phone 01747 852157 or email

Brigit Strawbridge and Bee Hotel

Bee Hotels in ideal spot says Brigit Strawbridge

Renowned wild bee advocate Brigit Strawbridge has expressed her delight at discovering a perfect location at Gold Hill Museum for two nesting boxes provided by Shaftesbury Bee Group’s Big Bee Project. The boxes, funded by Shaftesbury Town Council, are designed to provide maternity homes for solitary cavity-nesting species such as Mason and Leafcutter bees. The bees fill tubes with pollen as food for their larvae, performing a vital role in plant pollination in the process. Their offspring pupate in the autumn and emerge as adults in the following year. These bees are harmless to humans and pets as they do not sting. Planting in recent years in the Wildlife Friendly Gold Hill Museum Garden  by Ian Kellett and his late wife Marjory was always intended to be pollen-rich and attractive to insects and birds. The garden is free to visit during the daily 10.30a.m. to 4.30p.m. opening hours of the Museum, also free.