Wendy (wendylady2) wrote in abandonedplaces,

Tyneham Village, Lulworth Firing Ranges, Dorset



After the post concerning the lost village of Imber on Saliasbury Plain, it was mentioned in the comments that a few people would like very much to visit the other famous abandoned village on the South Coast of England - a place we went to back in 2007...
e had been invited to a friend’s wedding celebration party in Dorset, a county that I didn’t know well at all, but got to like enormously during the course of the weekend !!

Having attended the wedding party, we still had the whole of Sunday to explore, and so the next day, after a full English breakfast, we decided to have a look at a little place that doesn't appear much in guide books or on many maps of the area...
We had been advised very firmly, by one of our friends, the night before, that we should really go and have a look around Tyneham village before we made our way back to London...


Now Tyneham Village hasn’t ever come to my attention before, so when I heard that this beautiful little place had been abandoned during the War, for the Good of Queen & Country, and was, thus, like a time capsule, never having been returned to its rightful owners, my curiosity was well and truly piqued !!

We drove back towards Corfe castle, and just before arriving there, we took a turning off to Tyneham Village...the signpost which said "Military Firing Ranges: Keep out !!" had another one underneath which said "Tyneham Village: School and Church museums open", which is what we were looking for...for this really IS the village that laid down its life for England...

We drove down many twisty, turning lanes, through open moor-land, and saw many firing practice targets posted on the hillsides...until we, at last, reached the lane to Tyneham Village...

The first thing we saw, was a dusty little lane, with the Post Office and General Store...

 and a most attractive old phone box outside...this phone box was installed only a few years before the village was abandoned in 1943, and when you peered inside its dusty windows, there were posters on the wall advising people to be brief...and that you could have your very own phone installed for the princely sum of 2/6d (12 p) Fantastic !!

All the beautiful stone cottages were roofless, and open to the elements, and had lost their ground floor ceilings...the sight of the fireplaces in the bedrooms starting half way up the inside walls was very strange, and very sad...

Quite a few of the cottages had big plaques on the main wall, with a montage of old photos and details of the families who had lived there up until 1943, when the whole village was abandoned...and very interesting reading it made too:-

Here is the schoolroom, with all its accoutrements still intact, even down to the children’s work out on the benches, with the teacher’s comments and markings in the margins...how enlightening that was !! In those days, children were admonished severely by the teacher for not keeping their letters up straight when writing, and for spelling mistakes...but in a kindly way !

They were writing an essay on a wild animal of their choice and its habitat...not something, I fear, which would be on our Junior School curriculum today !! The children displayed some detailed knowledge of what they were writing about that certainly impressed me no end, especially as they would be all under the age of eleven. Remember, these were children whose life-style expectancy was to leave school at fourteen and go to work...either as a farm labourer, or a cook, or a servant of some kind...

Opposite the schoolhouse was the mediaeval church of St. Mary, a beautiful little grey stone church, now a museum dedicated to Tyneham Village’s story...

On one of its walls, is a two-part Timeline, detailing the village’s long history, and the tale of its residents’ enforced departure...here is the relevant part:-

As we left the church, we saw this poignant notice pinned to the door :-

The church gate led back down towards the Post Office where we came in...

Such a charming and picturesque little place...and very poignant in its abandoned and ruined state...I'll bet it was lovely when it was inhabited !! A true English hamlet...

Here is its story:-

Bounded by gently rolling hills in all landward directions, and to the south by the sea, the isolation of this compact coastal location is one factor that attracted the Army in 1942 when, in order to train British and American tank crews for the planned assault on Normandy’s beaches, it sought to expand its existing gunnery ranges at Lulworth. Unfortunately, the use of live ordnance made it imperative that the tiny village that lay at the heart of this new battle training ground should be evacuated.

It was on the bitterly cold day of 17 November 1943, as the village began its traditional preparations for the forthcoming festive season, that the Creech village postmaster delivered to every household the letters that brought the unwelcome news of evacuation. The date set for the military takeover was 19 December. By that time, nearly half of the Isle of Purbeck had been requisitioned and the gunnery ranges at Lulworth expanded. In addition, an RAF radar station sat atop the lofty Tyneham Cap; women from the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) were billeted at Tyneham House, and airmen lodged in the village. Barbed wire had become a familiar sight in the landscape, as had the tank traps along the coast.

Villagers, who had already given so much for their country ( the parish had lost many young men in the Great War) patriotically did their duty, and peacefully accepted the eviction, buoyed by the belief that they would be back before the hay was due to be harvested. Temporary accommodation and alternative employment were found, and gradually the village emptied.

Within weeks, this tight-knit community had been scattered across the Isle of Purbeck, yet the people’s thoughts never strayed far from home, and most were simply marking time until the end of the war. But, sadly, the end of hostilities in 1945 did not bring about the end of their exile. Frustrated and concerned, Tyneham’s villagers wrote to the War Office, dismayed at the deteriorating condition of their cottages, the overgrown fields and shell-damaged church. As time went by, they intensified the pressure until finally, in 1947, the news broke that the parish of Tyneham-cum-Steeple was to be retained by compulsory purchase to become part of a 7,200-acre (2,880-hectare) gunnery range.

Though impassioned protests brought about a public enquiry, a government White Paper made it clear that, while some promises might have been made regarding the eventual return of Tyneham, it was necessary for all personal considerations to be overridden by what was in the best interests of the nation. As any last hope of returning home vanished for the villagers, many were offered the chance to be rehoused at Sandford, near Wareham, in a small estate of newly built council houses known as Tyneham Close. Light and modern, with electricity and indoor plumbing, these dwellings were a world away from the draughty old stone cottages of the village, with their antiquated sanitation. A number of former Tyneham folk were quite content in their new homes, but many others, broken-hearted, never really recovered from the shock.

Those final Tyneham residents long maintained that assurances were given that their removal from the village was merely a temporary precaution and that once hostilities ceased they would be allowed to regain possession of their homes. As tenants of the Bond family, who held the Tyneham estate (and therefore much of the parish), the villagers did not actually own any of the properties. Consequently, when it became clear that the government intended to retain the land indefinitely, the ordinary folk of Tyneham merely received compensation for the produce of their gardens. Nevertheless, as far as the villagers were concerned, Tyneham, while not their property, was certainly their home, and had been for many years – in a number of cases, for generations.
Yet even they were eventually forced to concede that there was by now little left of the old Tyneham to move back to.

I think this is terribly sad story...and the photos of the children who returned as middle-aged adults to see their parents' old homes in ruins, were included, in many cases on the big information plaques within each house...

They all seemed to be united in their condemnation of the cavalier treatment of the village community by the British Government of the day...what does it matter that they didn’t actually own their homes ? This was their tightly knit community that was torn apart, and promises were broken with no recompense given at all...

After walking all around this abandoned village, we took a ten minute stroll along the lane, down to the sea, at Worbarrow Bay, passing quite a few further abandoned cottages along the way...everywhere were signs admonishing you not to wander from the path as this was a Firing Range...

and as if that was not enough to convince you, there were a few burnt out tanks on the hillsides, where the army had been practising booby traps, I suppose !!

All in all, this was an extremely unusual place, and one that is highly recommended to go and see, if you are ever in the Lulworth Cove/Worbarrow Bay areas...

Tags: abandoned village, military, united kingdom

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