Imber is a small village that lies in the middle of Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. It was forcibly evacuated in 1943 to allow American troops to exercise there. It’s open to the public on limited days each year.
History of Imber
There is evidence of Imber’s existence dating right back to the Domesday Book, when 50 people were recorded living there. The population ebbed and flowed from hundreds of years, eventually declining quite rapidly in the second half of the 19th century as Imber’s remoteness became less and less feasible in an increasingly urban world.
The War Office began buying up a lot of land around Imber in the late 19th century to use for a military training ground, and by the 1920s, they’d also bought several of the farms and properties, leasing them back to villagers at favourable rates. By 1939, they owned almost all of the properties in Imber, barring the church, vicarage, schoolroom and Bell Inn.
In November 1943, the residents were given 47 days’ notice to pack up and leave their homes so that the village could be requisitioned and used for US military troops to practice street fighting, in preparation for the Allied Invasion of Europe. They did so, under the impression they would be allowed to return in 6 months time, or when the war was over.
Following the end of the war, the villagers petitioned the government to allow them back: an inquiry into the subject found in favour of Imber staying under military control, but stipulated that the church would be maintained and people would be allowed back on certain days of the year.
The church is the only open and accessible building in Imber today – the rest is still used as an active training ground. Inside the church is a small exhibition on Imber’s history as well as archive material and press clippings from the past 60 or so years: it’s worth having a read to understand a bit more about the village and its layout.
The rest of the buildings are visible from the road: the ruins of Imber Court can be spied through fencing and the soulless concrete block houses which litter the space either side of the road were constructed during the Troubles, and designed to represent urban landscapes in Northern Ireland. The British army used them for training during the 1980s, and they’re still used to simulate landscapes today.
Getting to Imber
Imber is only really accessible by car: it lies in the middle of Salisbury Plain, about 4km west of the A360. The roads on the Plain are of varying quality so a reliable car is a good idea. The Imber Bus Run happens on certain days, so from time to time it’s possible to use that to access the village from either Warminster or Salisbury rail stations.
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