Malmesbury is the oldest continually inhabited town in England.

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The hilltop contains several freshwater springs, which created early settlements. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed stone town wall defences, which have shown history of a Neolithic fort and foundations of a wooden Iron Age fort between 800 and 500BC.

What made Malmesbury successful as a town - water and excellent defences - lead to both its current layout and the reason that it still retains over 400 listed buildings within its boundaries. Although Roger of Salisbury reconstructed the town after his accession to Bishop of Salisbury in 1102, the Saxon layout he rebuilt is still retained in the centre today. However, the geography also precluded easy development for mass transport and hence hindered industrial development, leaving the architecture and ancient buildings largely untouched. The result is a higher proportion of Grade I and Grade II buildings than in many other English towns.

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