Nestling in idyllic landscape on the Dorset coastline is Tyneham, a picturesque village trapped in a time warp. One of around 3000 abandoned settlements in England, Tyneham is the only one to have been evacuated by the army in order to serve the needs of the country in a time of war. In 1943 the population of simple farmers and fishermen were given 30 days to leave their homes to allow for the Ministry of Defence’s preparations for D-Day, little knowing that they would never return. By Christmas that year all 225 inhabitants had abandoned the village and Tyneham has remained a ghost town ever since, with only the shells of some of its former buildings left to tell the tale.
With a long history dating all the way back to the Iron Age, Tyneham was mentioned in the Domesday Book under the name “Tigeham”. The village was connected with tales of smuggling and shipwrecks like many other similar coastal settlements through the ages. There was an Elizabethan Manor house in the area owned by the Bond family who were the local landed gentry at the time of the evacuation. Unfortunately only ruins of the property now remain and they cannot be visited by the public.
At the time of the evacuation in 1943 the village was in a period of decline, with the village school having closed in 1932. The settlement consisted of a handful of cottages, a post office, a farm and a church and rectory. Most of these buildings are now in a state of disrepair, but since the 1970s the public have been allowed access to the village on days when live firing exercises are not taking place. Information boards have been placed inside the cottages and farm with information about the families that used to live there and visitors can still see a 1929 telephone kiosk. Two of the buildings remain intact, the school and the church both of which host displays.
The land is now under the ownership of the Ministry of Defence thanks to a compulsory purchase order in 1952 and is part of the Lulworth firing ranges with the area still being used for live firing exercises today. For up to 150 days a year the public are allowed access to the village – mostly on weekends and holidays.
When Tyneham was evacuated, the residents believed that they would be allowed to return as soon as the war was over. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. Despite many high profile campaigns over the years the Ministry of Defence have refused to allow the former residents to return to live in their village. Now that so many years have passed since the evacuation very few people are left alive today that had to leave their homes in 1943 and it is unlikely that the village will ever be released from government control. On the other hand, Tyneham has been left as a beautiful time capsule unaffected by the modern world.