Shaftesbury is a town in Dorset, England. It is situated on the A30 road, 20 miles (32 kilometres) west of Salisbury, near to the border with Wiltshire. The town is built 718 ft (219 m) 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.
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.
Shaftesbury had a significant early history. It was founded as a borough in the year 880. Alfred the Great and his daughter Ethelgiva founded Shaftesbury Abbey in 888. King Canute died here in 1035. In the Domesday Book of 1086 the town's ownership was equally shared between king and abbey. In the Middle Ages the abbey was the central focus of the town. Shaftesbury took a small role with the civil war between Queen Matilda and King Stephen, in which a small castle was built on Castle Hill. In 1260, a charter to hold a market was granted.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Shaftesbury.
As stated above Shaftesbury Borough was an ancient borough founded in 880. It was superceded by Shaftesbury Municipal Borough which was established in 1835 and lasted until the nationwide municipal reorganization of 1974. From 1894 it was also a civil parish, a title that continues within the District of North Dorset.
The town had a poor law union throughout the 19th century and was also a Registration District and a sub-Registration District. The parishes surrounding the town formed Shaftesbury Rural District from 1894 until 1975.
Until 1894 Shaftesbury was made up of three civil parishes based on the following churches:
These continue to the present as ecclesiastical parishes.
There were six further ancient parishes:
The registers of St. Peter's date from 1623. The original register books are now deposited with the Dorset Archives Service, but have been digitised by Ancestry.co.uk and made available on their site (subscription required).