The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Treasures of Dorset: Gold Hill

Tom Burn goes to 'the top of the world', or at least Shaftesbury

What connects a flour rich in wheat germ, the director of the hit feature film, Alien, and the son of a Bohemian innkeeper and zither player? The unlikely answer is a steep, cobbled street in North Dorset. Gold Hill, which connects the centre of Shaftesbury to the parish of St James at the foot of the hill, was the setting for the famous Hovis advertisement, directed by Ridley Scott and accompanied by Dvorák’s ‘New World’ Symphony. Made forty years ago, it has been voted Britain’s favourite advertisement, despite a cheesy script including lines like ”Twas like taking bread to the top of the world’ as a young lad pushes his bike up the hill. To this day a collecting box shaped like a Hovis loaf stands at the top of Gold Hill for local charities.
Even before the TV people descended on Shaftesbury, the view from the top of Gold Hill attracted both visitors and illustrators of chocolate boxes. It combines the satisfying curve of the houses on the left, the great rampart of Shaftesbury Abbey’s retaining wall on the right, the old-fashioned cobbles in the foreground and the broad vista of the Blackmore Vale beyond. Bizarrely, the view has even appeared on the cover of the Toronto telephone directory and of an Italian fabric merchant’s catalogue, on which the tiles of the roofs were replaced by different fabric designs.


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