On a recent getaway break we spent some time riding around the Dorset area where we discovered this small village that gave so much more than people realise.
Tyneham is a ghost village in South Dorset, 5 miles west of Corfe Castle.
St. Mary’s Church was the first building erected there in 1297, and becoming the heart of the village. Tyneham House was built in 1563, and bought by the Bond family in 1683; they owned it for around 200 years. In between the rest of the village grew.
The villagers mainly relied on farming and fishing to sustain them, and Tyneham House provided them with access to fruit and veg. By products from the farm such as eggs, butter and cheese were also available. The milk from Tyneham Farm was sent to London on ‘ The London Milk Train’ from Corfe Station, until the dairy was built at Corfe. Calves, pigs and lambs as well as fleeces were sold at Dorchester, sent by train from Wool Station.
The villagers all worked within the community, mainly farm labourers, shepherds, gardeners to the main house, launderers and maids. The Rector had a large property, which he occasionally rented out to supplement his income. The Rectory had stables and even a tennis court !!!
The Post Office also doubled up as the village store, and in 1929 had a public telephone box installed, the villagers had never seen the like, let alone knew how to operate it.
In 1899 December 10, Algernon Bond, the Heir of Tyneham was severely injured in a sortie during ‘ The Siege of Ladysmith’ in The Boer War.
1914 – 1918 The Great War 6 young men from the village were killed in action.
In 1917 the MOD acquired land at Lulworth to commence live firing.
The Tyneham Home Guard was formed in 1940 to help during World War II. On July 11 1940 a Messerchmitt Me110 crash landed on Povington Heath and the 2 man German crew were the first prisoners of The Battle of Britain. In 1941 the RAF requisited Tyneham House as an admin centre for the local Radar Station.
1943 November 16 the parishioners were served notice of eviction from Major General C H Miller of Southern Command, part of Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet. 1943 December 19, 6 days before Christmas all parishioners were evacuated, this equated to 225 people and 102 evacuated properties; the Military took over the village from that day on. The eviction was to aid the Military with their D-Day preparations, and the villagers always believed that they would return to their homes one day.
In 1952 the Government made the compulsory purchase of Tyneham House, and eventually the village was compulsory purchased for £30,000. The Government and the Military decided that Lulworth firing ranges were crucial to our defence, the villagers would never return to Tyneham.
A poignant message in the church was left pinned to the church doors by Helen Taylor, who was the seamstress at Tyneham House, on being evacuated from the village, it reads……
“Please treat the church and houses with care. We have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help with the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”
Today the village is tranquil in a time stood still kind of way. It is peaceful to walk around the now ruined buildings and imagine what life was like there in a bygone era. It is not eerie as one would expect, and although the villagers gave up their homes and livelihoods, for the good of England, it has a happy rather than sad feel about it.
Well worth a visit.
Tanya Billingham ( UK Support )