Gold Hill Shaftesbury

The chances are you recognise the street in this picture. But you might not realise why. It is Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, and it was the setting for one of the most famous British television adverts ever.

Remember that 1973 Hovis commercial starring a bread delivery boy pushing his bike up a steep cobbled hill, with Dvo?rák’s New World symphony throbbing in the background? It was the cheesy voiceover, in a thick Mummerset accent, that lodged in the memory. “Last on my round was Old Ma Peggotty’s house. ’Twas like taking bread to the top of the world.” In 2006, the Hovis ad was voted viewers’ all-time favourite. Not, one suspects, because people were mad about the wholesomeness of Hovis, but because they were mad about the wholesome images of village life.

Nothing tugs as hard at the heartstrings as nostalgia. Directed by Ridley Scott, who later found fame with Alien and Gladiator, the ad evoked a forgotten England of morning mist and thatched roofs, an England in which everyone had time to talk to one another and there was fresh-baked bread on every table. It gave Shaftesbury the kind of publicity most towns can only dream about.