Gold Hill Museum
Gold Hill Museum contains exhibits of the 1100 years of the history of the town, and complements the Shaftesbury Abbey Museum.
Perched on a hilltop with extensive views over the gentle undulating Blackmore Vale, Shaftesbury is one of England’s most scenically located and charming historic market towns.
After the Battle of Eddington in West Wiltshire in 878AD, when King Alfred the Great successfully defeated the Vikings, he set about reforming the country. Alfred was a lawmaker, administrator, scholar and religious reformer. Two of his innovations were directly responsible for the existence of Shaftesbury.
Shaftesbury was founded in c.880 and was one of the four towns in Dorset
mentioned in a document known as the Burghal Hidage. This recorded the ambitious plan that Alfred had to combine civil defence with town planning to make a safe place for the local populace in times of trouble.
In 888, Alfred founded the Abbey, which was the first community for nuns not to be connected with a male community, and it became the model for other royal nunneries. His young daughter, Aethelgifu, who had been brought up to convent life, was the first Abbess.
Objects in the museum include Anglo Saxon coins and a prime example of a medieval alabaster. Grain measures and Dorset buttons represent some of the local trades of the town. The town’s dignitaries are represented through the town crier’s costume donated by the former town crier.
Also on view is the ‘Byzant’, a gold coloured festival totem that played a central role in the town’s water-gathering ceremony. When the Byzant ceremony started is unknown but mention of such a ceremony offering homage to the Lord of the Manor of Gillingham dates back to the dark ages.
During the 18th century it was customary for two people to dress handsomely and act the part of the Lord and Steward of the Manor at the ceremony, the date having been changed in 1622 from the Sunday before Ascension Day to the Monday. With the growth of the town a much greater volume of water was needed and the corporation made a bargain with the Lord of the Manor of Gillingham enabling townspeople to draw water from the springs which issue from the Northwest of Castle Hill in Enmore Green, Motcombe. To retain this right to draw water, the Mayor and Burgesses with a gathering of townspeople, had to descend to Enmore Green annually carrying ‘The Byzant’ decked with feathers, ribbons and jewels. The Lord of the Manor or his Steward received the Mayor who presented the Lord of the Manor with five tributes, the Byzant itself, a pair of gloves, two wheaten loaves, a calf’s head and a gallon of ale. After the ceremony dancing took place on the green. After these rites, the Mayor and the crowd returned to the town to spend the rest of the day in revels and feasting.
Gold Hill Museum’s award-winning cottage-style garden, with spectacular views over the Blackmore Vale, offers a delightful haven within the town, where you can sit and relax.
We recommend that you visit Shaftesbury Abbey Museum & Garden before visiting Gold Hill Museum. This will enable you to get a truer picture of Shaftesbury’s Heritage.
|Ticket Type||Ticket Tariff|
|2012 Season- Free Admission||Free|
Note: Prices are a guide only and may change on a daily basis.
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