Tyneham village is a short walk inland from Worbarrow Bay in Dorset. In 1943, it was decided to use it for D-Day training exercises. The Army requisitioned the village and surrounding valley from the Bond family who owned the estate. Residents were given one month in which to gather their belongings (which, as they were tenants, usually amounted to little) before eviction. The Bonds were promised that the land would be returned to them after the war.
The Army simply reneged on their promise, and the land is still owned by the military today. The village was poorly maintained by the soldiers, and fell into ruin. Only the church and schoolhouse remained roofed. The Elizabethan manor house was completely destroyed, with stone features being carted off to decorate the houses of certain senior staff. A display inside the church insists that the village needed to be kept as a vital training ground for the Cold War, but others have suggested that Tyneham’s main appeal to the Army was as a unofficial private pheasant and deer shooting estate for officers.
Under pressure from high profile protests, in the 1970s the Army allowed public access to Tyneham and began the task of preserving what was left.
We visited whilst paddling past this weekend. We noted that a huge amount of preservative work has been done in the past few years, both in terms of opening up more of the village and in terms of explaining about life in the village through information panels. Particularly poignant are the photos of the ‘children’ of Tyneham, visiting as pensioners. Those few still alive retain the forlorn hope that one day their homes might be returned to them.
More info in this splendid book.