[Diggers350] BBC The secrets of Britain's abandoned villages

james armstrong james36armstrong at hotmail.com
Thu Nov 18 23:38:48 GMT 2010

forced depopulation also happened at Tyneham , Dorset in 1930's.  Milton Abbas Dorset in 1780's, and was widespread in the making of country houses - especially Burley House  and Blenheim Palace. (see chapter V of Hoskins 'The Making of the  Englsih Landscape.'
There is access to Tyneham deserted village every weekend- that thought gives concerned people food for thought and action

To: diggers350 at yahoogroups.com
From: tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2010 23:26:41 +0000
Subject: [Diggers350] BBC The secrets of Britain's abandoned villages




Three periods of change ... and an article with a snazzy clickable map
of the UK

In 14th Century, large number of villages abandoned due to falling
population linked to Black Death. 

Switch from arable to sheep farming in Tudor times meant many farm
workers were cleared off land suddenly enclosed for pasture. 

Big country houses and parks built in the 18th and 19th Century

The secrets of Britain's abandoned villages 

By Tom Geoghegan - 18 November 2010 Last updated at 11:16 - BBC News

The ghosts of thousands of long-forgotten villages haunt Britain,
inhabitations suddenly deserted and left to ruin. As a new campaign
begins to shed further light on these forgotten histories, the Magazine
asks - what happened and why?

Albert Nash, blacksmith for 44 years in the village of Imber, Wiltshire,
was found by his wife Martha slumped over the anvil in his

He was, in her words, crying like a baby. 

It was the beginning of November 1943, a day or two after Mr Nash and the
rest of the villagers had been told by the War Office they had 47 days to
pack their bags and leave, to make way for US forces.

Within weeks Mr Nash had died. Folklore had it that the death certificate
said the cause was a broken heart.

Imber, once a Saxon settlement, is one of thousands of British
ex-villages - once thriving communities that succumbed to natural or
human forces, like disease, coastal erosion, industrial decline,
reservoirs or war.

To mark the launch of the new Times Atlas of Britain, its publisher
Collins wants people to send in their memories of such places, to create
a digital archive dedicated to these lost locations. 

"While compiling the first comprehensive atlas of its type to be
published in the UK in over 40 years, we were not only interested in how
the United Kingdom had changed geographically over time, but the
implications of this for residents of our islands," says Jethro
Lennox, senior publishing manager at Times Atlas.

"Initially, we found that natural factors such as coastal erosion
and flooding had made some places uninhabitable... while economic,
military or industrial-related reasons also contributed towards an
abandonment of settlements, including Dylife, Imber and

The anguish of Mr Nash shows the pain that such events in history can
wreak on families and communities. Mr Nash's grandson, Ken Mitchell, now
84, remembers the eviction well.

"It was a bombshell dropped on the villagers. The elders were called
together for a meeting in the schoolroom and when they were told, it was
a complete surprise.

"Albert was very upset and it hit him very hard. He moved to Bishops
Cannings, near Devizes, but he had lost the will to live and only
survived four or five weeks." 

Ken was 17 at the time. He had for a time worked with his grandfather in
the smithy but was now seeking a career in the RAF. 

After leaving Imber and the vicarage where he worked, Ken's father became
a labourer on a farm about 15 miles away, and took his wife and three
children there, although a year later Ken joined the Army. 

All 155 villagers left, most of them scattered around the Salisbury Plain
area, working as farmhands. Their demands to return after the war came to

"There was no anger at the time. Dismay and disappointment, yes, but
the anger took a long time. They felt they were helping the country and
helping the war effort, and they thought they were coming back. My mother
was visibly upset but I don't think it really affected the

For a few weekends a year, the Ministry of Defence allows public access
to Imber, so Ken and other surviving villagers return, but the thatched
cottage he left behind has been demolished and the Victorian vicarage

The story of Imber has long fascinated Rex Sawyer, a former headmaster in
Wiltshire and author of Little Imber on the Down, and he says it's now
part of the county's identity.

"It has such a grip on the hearts and minds of Wiltshire people.
When Imber opens, people flood there, but the village is in a very sad
state now, just a few buildings."

For many other "ghost" settlements, there are no remains at
all, so long ago were they inhabited and then deserted. 

Villages, hamlets and farms have been moving around since the Neolithic
Age, when people settled down for the first time, says Trevor Rowley,
author of Deserted Villages, although some periods in history such as the
Black Death in the late Middle Ages, have been more turbulent than

"These changes happen in places previously desirable but no longer
worth living in because you can't make your living there any more. So it
reflects on social history and economic history," says Mr Rowley.

Archaeologists are happy because the remains give them an undisturbed
snapshot of society, he says, but there is an underlying sadness to these
events. Although some people affected were rehoused, many others took up
a life of squatting while the most unfortunate turned to

One of the most infamous examples in British history was the Highlands
Clearances in the 18th and 19th Centuries, which displaced thousands and
had a deep cultural impact. 

Around the same time, Irish poet Oliver Goldsmith evoked feelings of
melancholy in The Deserted Village, about returning to his village after
a long absence, to find it neglected and empty - "desolation saddens
all they green" - apart from one lonely widow.

Stephen Fisk, who visits Britain's abandoned villages and documents them
on his website, says his devotion was stimulated by the human stories
behind evictions and resettlements.

"I wanted to know what it was like for people forced to leave their
homes and land, and how they coped afterwards. When it's a wealthy
landlord forcing people out for one reason or another, I think there's
more anger. You can't help but feel indignation on their

But when it's due to natural causes, it is at least a gradual process, at
least in the UK, says Mr Fisk. Dunwich in Suffolk was a very important
port in the Middle Ages but it was washed away by the sea, in a process
that probably happened over hundreds of years.

In the last 100 years, societies have proved to be remarkably versatile,
he says, and the general decline in industries has not claimed as many
villages as one might think.

"Communities have survived or developed a new purpose, or even just
become commuter places for the town or city nearby."

Resettlements have become less likely to happen today, because the power
structures don't exist and we're better at resisting them, he says,
although the village of Sipson in west London only escaped when plans for
the third runway at Heathrow Airport were cancelled recently. 

Still today, there are reminders of abandonments of the past - a solitary
church or a strange bump on the landscape. And in the Dorset village of
Tyneham, a more poignant tribute.

As if frozen in time, the coat pegs in the schoolhouse still bear the
names of the children evacuated 70 years ago, when the village become an
Army training base for the D-Day landings.


+44 (0)7786 952037




"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."







"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which
alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung



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