Tyneham Ghost Town - England
Parts of Tyneham village are picture postcard perfect. The village school and the church look like they are just waiting for pupils and parishioners to turn up. Other parts of the village have been allowed to decay, sixty years of weather and nature have turned houses into derelict shells whilst Tyneham House, a beautiful Elizabethan mansion was razed to the ground after being declared unsafe.
So why is Tyneham so special and for what reason are some parts as they were when the villagers left whilst others are slowly returning to the soil? No one has lived here for over sixty years, since the dark times of World War II. Days before the families had to leave it was the quintessential countryside village within walking distance of the sea at Worbarrrow Bay. In those halcyon days the village boasted a school, church and post office and was surrounded by several farms whilst the mansion known as ‘The Great House’ benignly overlooked it.
It was a wonderful place to live. OK, it had no mains water or electricity but its isolation meant that life was peaceful, unaffected by the outside world. Children would play on the streets or in the fields after school. Everyone knew everyone else and crime was non existent. Then one day in late December 1943 a car pulled up to the village square and an official looking gentleman got out. People were very suspicious as strangers had been seen in the area lately and had disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. The new visitor pinned a notice up on the village notice board saying that the villagers had just three weeks to pack up and leave their village. The upheaval would only be temporary but no explanation was given. Sadly, they were never to return.
The village of Tyneham was mentioned in the Doomsday Book so we know it’s at least nearly a thousand years old although there are signs around the village that it had been settled since Iron Age times
Over the centuries it had been owned by a succession of families, in the 14th century it was the Russels, then after five generations the Chykes and then the Popes owned the village before selling it to the Williams. Finally over three hundred years ago it was sold to the Bonds in whose hands it remained.
It was the Ministry of Defence that evicted the villagers from the village and surrounding countryside. During the last few years of the war it was used as a firing range and 252 people were displaced but hoping to return to their beloved village once the war was won. In the end it didn’t happen. The villagers waited patiently and then less patiently until in 1948 the MoD compulsorily purchased the land and village, closing it to the outside world. The villagers were given new homes elsewhere but the community broke down as they were dispersed across the county.
Today, the village church and school have been restored and the village is opened to the public on a few summer weekends each year. The schoolroom looks like the day it was left with samplers on the wall and handwriting practice on the board. Miss Norah Woodman was the school's head teacher and had unusual teaching methods, using beads to practise counting. Classes cost a penny a month which contributed to Miss Woodman's £25 salary. The school was very patriotic and the children would march round the playground and salute the Union Flag before lessons each day.
After the forced evacuation of the village, Tyneham House was used to house members of the WAAF that were billeted there during the war. After the war it was boarded up and left to rot although it survived very much in tact until a badly prepared report on its condition recommended demolition. This was carried out even though it was subsequently proved that the building was sturdy. The remains of the house lies hidden in Tyneham Great Wood, far from the paths tourists take to the village.
Tyneham is signposted off the A351 or the A3070 out of Wareham.