Two small villages, frozen in time, sit eerily in the south of England after being reluctantly abandoned by their residents during the Second World War. Imber, in Salisbury Plain and Tyneham in Dorset sit just 60 miles apart and have been described as ‘lost twin villages’ after their residents were forced by the authorities to leave in 1943.
When Britain was in the grip of World War II, the decision was taken to invade France, meaning British leaders and the war cabinet had to select suitable locations to train more than 150,000 men for the D-Day troops.
Within weeks, residents of Imber and Tyneham were given formal notice to leave their homes to make room for the British army. The villagers packed up their lives, said their farewells and had all gone by the week before Christmas, with the last one, Evelyn Bond, leaving a poignant note pinned to the church door.
The note said: "Please treat the church and houses with care. We have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”
Although both villages were due to be returned to the residents after the war, neither village was. Today these once-loved communities stand derelict, tumbling down and subject to the ravages of time. But today, they offer something unique as they have not been subjected to modernisation or commercialisation since they were abandoned.
They have been described as ‘offering a faded snapshot of village life in 1943 and enabling the onlooker to imagine just how life might have been 80 years ago in rural England.’ It is said although many of the residents were moved into modernised council houses, with conveniences, such running water and electricity - which the village did not offer, many of the older residents are thought to have died of shock and broken hearts soon after they left their homes.
How to visit Imber and Tyneham villages
Tyneham Village is open most weekends throughout the year plus some weekdays during holiday times - however check the Tyneham website to ensure access.
It is located at Tyneham Village, Tyneham BH20 5DE.
Imber Village is only open on specified dates. The next opening date is Easter weekend from Good Friday to Easter Sunday (April 7 to 9). Visit the Imber Village website for more information.