Imber Ghost Town - Wiltshire
Like Tyneham, Imber is a village that was lost to the needs of wartime Britain. In 1943 the Ministry of Defence ordered all the villagers to leave within 47 days and the village and surrounding area was used from then on as a firing range and training ground for manoeuvres for the D-Day landings.
Imber had been known since Saxon times and it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. For all of its existence it was a very isolated village, many miles from its neighbours and so ideal for the needs of the Ministry of Defence.
Its isolation meant that in the run up to that fateful day, life here continued with very little influence from the outside world. This had disadvantages as well as benefits.
Many times over its history the land it occupied flooded. In 1757 and 1773 the river that ran through the village called the Imber Dock flooded sweeping away houses and causing loss of life.
Fire was also a big problem and when instances occurred it was invariably too late to get help from the nearest large town, Warminster. This was the reason for the destruction of Imber Court which was set alight accidentally during restoration in 1920 but was completely destroyed before help could be summoned. It was subsequently completely rebuilt.
Travelling from Imber to other villages in the 18th century was also very dangerous because of highwaymen. The journey took many hours over open wild landscapes offering a good view for waiting highwaymen from their hiding places. Farmers would travel from Imber to the neighbouring towns and villages, either with money to buy new stock or deposits to take to the bank. They were easy targets for the highwaymen.
Imber was famous for its dew pond industry. Teams of men trained and practised in the skill would be sent out across the county and beyond to construct dew ponds which were reservoirs for storing water for watering livestock. The idea was that they would trap and store dew from the air but in practice, many collected and stored rainwater.
So on 1st November 1943, the military informed a meeting of the villagers at the church hall that the area around Imber was no longer safe for them because of the military training and that they would be compulsorily purchasing the village so they could use it for practising urban warfare. Tenants would have to quit their homes and find new accommodation and new jobs elsewhere. As with Tyneham, the villagers were told that they should be able to return to their homes some time in the future but that day never came.
In 1961 a large group of residents and supporters marched along prohibited paths and tracks into Imber and put up a ‘Notice to Quit’ sign. A service was held in the church before the group dispersed. After the initial interest in this demonstration, support lessened until finally, only 17 years ago the association of former Imber residents finally gave up the battle to have the village reopened for occupation.
Since then, the memory of the village has been kept alive by concerts held in the village organised by Ruth Underwood, the daughter of a former resident.
Visitors can wander around the ghost town of Imber at Christmas, Easter and for most of August. For the remainder of the year, Imber slumbers on in the peace and tranquillity of unoccupied isolation.