The ghost village of Tyneham where time stopped in 1943 – they had 28 days to leave
Tigeham, which means “goat enclosure,” is listed in the Domesday Book. After a century, the village was known as Tiham, and only subsequently as Tyneham.
St Mary’s limestone church originates from the 13th century. It has been nearly 73 years since the villagers of Tyneham, Dorset, fled their houses during WWII. All photos by Simon Templar.
In 1943, Tyneham village and surrounding hamlets were evacuated to allow Allied soldiers to train for the D-Day invasion. Helen Taylor was the final resident to depart, and she left a heartfelt message on the church door that said, “Please handle the church and dwellings with care.” “We have given up our homes, where many of us have lived for generations, to help win the war and keep men free.”
The villagers were given notice in November 1943 that they would be obliged to depart within 28 days because the region was needed for army training. The final inhabitants fled on December 17, 1943, expecting that they would be able to return one day. Unfortunately, this was never to happen.
The years that have passed have taken their toll. Only the church and the schoolhouse are still standing. With names on the hooks and schoolwork on the tables, it appears like the youngsters had just ran outside to play. Former villagers are still permitted to be buried in the graveyard.
Helen Taylor, aged 92, claimed she had no ill will against the army 50 years after posting the sorrowful message on the door. “We went with goodwill, thinking we were contributing to the war effort,” she explained.
The village is still part of the army’s Lulworth Ranges today, but members of the public can visit it on most weekends and public holidays. This was meant to be a temporary solution for the duration of World War II, but in 1948 the Army issued a compulsory purchase order for the property, and it has since been used for military training.
Despite being littered with junk used as targets and often shelled, the region has become a sanctuary for animals due to its lack of cultivation and development. Following visitor and local concerns, the Ministry of Defence began opening the hamlet and walkways over the ranges on weekends and throughout August in 1975.
Many of the hamlet buildings have fallen into disrepair or have been damaged by shelling, and the Elizabethan manor house was demolished in 1967 by the former Ministry of Works, while the church remains intact and features a stained-glass window by Martin Travers.
Since then, the church and schoolhouse have been conserved as museums. Tyneham Farm reopened to the public in 2008, and conservation efforts are still underway. The village is still part of the Army Ranges today, though it is open to the public on most weekends and holidays.
Being on the Jurassic coast, there are some spectacular rock formations and views across Worbarrow Bay from here.