A HISTORIC town in Dorset is celebrating the introduction of a very special biscuit to mark its connections with Elizabethan explorer and Queen Elizabeth I’s beloved courtier, Sir Walter Raleigh.

Steve Oxford, owner of Sherborne’s longest established bakery Oxfords, has used the hidden cypher recently discovered on a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery to decorate the new biscuit and some sour dough loaves.

The cypher was found in the top left hand corner of a painting of Sir Walter – the sea can be made out just below an emblem of a crescent moon, indicating Raleigh’s willingness to be controlled by the Queen in the same way the moon controls the tides.

Elizabeth had been compared to the moon goddess Cynthia, and experts now say the newly-revealed water must refer to the explorer himself (using the pun Walter/water).

Sir Walter Raleigh’s connection with Sherborne comes from the two castles for which the town is so famous. The 16th century “New” Castle was built by Raleigh after Queen Elizabeth leased him the Old Castle when he’d fallen in love with Sherborne, which he called “Fortune’s Fold”, on his way to Devon.

Rather than refurbish the old castle, Raleigh decided to construct a new lodging for temporary visits, and this became known as Sherborne New Castle.

More can be learned on a new walk which runs twice weekly from April with Sherborne’s Blue Badge Guide Cindy Chant. She will reveal more about Sir Walter Raleigh, his love and subsequent falling out with Queen Elizabeth I and how, like many after him, he loved visiting Sherborne.

Residents and visitors to the town will be able to visit Oxfords Bakery where the new ginger biscuits with a hint of cinnamon are on sale.

Oxfords has a direct connection to Raleigh as the bakery has been owned by Castle Estates for over 200 years.

Janet Schofield, from Sherborne TIC said: “There was a large increase in group travel visitors to Sherborne in 2016 and the Raleigh walk and these new “Raleigh” biscuits are a great reminder of the fascinating history of the town which attracts people from across the UK and beyond.”