Library & Archive

Local History Library and Research

The Library

Our local history library houses a large collection of books on a wide variety of subjects mainly covering Dorset and Wiltshire but also books of a more general historical nature. In particular the library has a selection of books relating to the history of Shaftesbury and surrounding villages. To back this up there is much material of archival nature, school records, magazines and photographs.

The library is available free for members of the Shaftesbury & District Historical Society and members of the public wishing to carry out research.

To make an appointment to use the library telephone 01747 852157



The Library is the first stop for researchers of Shaftesbury’s history as well as the surrounding villages. In addition to its collection of books it has a large collection of maps, a digitized collection of over 700 Shaftesbury wills with index, copies of deeds, historical trade adverts for Shaftesbury, sale catalogues for Shaftesbury and village estates including that of the great sale of Shaftesbury in 1919. Much material is now being put onto computer and there is an online terminal available in the bright comfortable research area. The Borough Catalogue, published by the Dorset History Centre, is a valuable reference for those wishing to research the Corporation’s material now housed at the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.

Recent Publications

Photographs from Gold Hill Museum’s photographic collection feature prominently in Roger Guttridge’s Shaftesbury Through Time published in 2018 by Amberley.  Research into manuscripts, letters, publications and other documents relating to John Rutter, owned by The S&DHS, formed the basis of Sir John Stuttard’s The Turbulent Quaker of Shaftesbury. This was published in 2018 by The Hobnob Press on behalf of The S&DHS and is available from Gold Hill Museum.

Gold Hill Museum Library

Library & Archive News

Making The Local History Library More Accessible

Gold Hill Museum volunteer Jeanette Hardiman in the process of accessioning a copy of The Art of a Salesman, kindly donated by its author, Paul Whittaker in October 2021. Jeanette has been through the entire stock of the Museum’s Reference Library – over 1300 volumes – entering basic information such as Title, Author, Date of Publication, Publisher, and ISBN into a searchable database. She has now identified up to 30 Keywords for each book so that future enquirers may find books, via our website, which they may not even have realised were relevant to their research interests. The S&DHS plans to make the Reference Library Catalogue available online.

The Art of a Salesman is a 2019 biography of the hotelier and philanthropist Sir Merton Russell-Cotes who helped to drive the development of Bournemouth as a fashionable tourist resort in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He and his wife gifted the clifftop Russell-Cotes Museum, together with a substantial art collection, to the town in 1907. Prior to Paul Whittaker’s self-published work, there was no accurate account of Merton’s life.

Member of the volunteer Archives Team Janet Swiss has been fascinated by this handwritten leather-bound volume in immaculate copperplate. The contents are notes and transcriptions from the monthly Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society, mostly from the period 1815 to 1818, but with references to journals from the early days of this august scientific institution founded in Charles II’s reign. The anonymous writer is interested in such subjects as the weather, grain, America, black walnut tree imports, and hops. It’s not clear why we have this book so if anyone can help explain its provenance, please get in touch.

Tel: 01747 852157