When one thinks of whole-scale forced evictions of villages, one is unlikely to think of countries like the United Kingdom (or even the United States with Bikini Atoll - that one can now visit and dive today). Imber village is a ghost town in Salisbury Plain (the British Army's main training area) that has been evacuated for use by the army that one can visit on special days of the year.

Unlike some countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia - Britain is a very densely populated country and a fairly small country in size. That means it has few areas for military training and use.

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The Background Of The Village of Imber

The area has been settled for a long time and would have been settled during the British Iron Age, and Roman Britain. The first documented reference to Imber dates from 967 during the Saxon times and was later mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

  • Domesday Book: Mentioned The Village as "Imembrie"
  • Location: Salisbury Plain, England

Imber lies in an isolated area of the Salisbury Plain and was always an isolated community. Most of the men there were engaged in agriculture or related work and the village was elongated and spread out linearly along its main street.

Population:

  • Peak Population: 440 In 1851
  • At Evacuation: 150 in 1943

Excavation of the Residents of Imber

Starting in the 1890s, the British Ministry of Defence slowly bought up the village. At first, the army bought land mostly east of Imber on Salisbury Plain for use of military maneuvers. This continued into the 1920s when farmed were also purchased. By the time WW2 broke out, the military-owned almost all of the land in and around Imber - but not the church, vicarage, chapel, schoolroom, and the Bell Inn.

It came to a head during World War Two in 1943 when the whole population of around 150 residents was expelled. They were expelled to make room for the American troops to prepare for D-Day (one can see a number of memorials and museums along the Normandy coast today).

With the end of the war, the army retained the village and the residents were not permitted to return to their homes.

  • Notice: The Residents Were Given 47 Days Notice To Leave

The residents were given 47 days' notice to leave their homes - the reason being that the village was too close to shell impact areas. Most of the villagers were cooperative and saw it as their contribution to the war effort. Some of the residents were informed they would be permitted to return, but that never happened.

After the war, the village found a use for military training - including for preparing the soldiers for urban conflict in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

Related: Visit This Ghost Town On "Bannack Day" When It Comes Alive Once Again

The Village of Imber Today

The Ministry of Defence does permit non-military to access the village on specified open days during the year.

The most notable structure in the deserted village is the church of St. Giles. The church is still in reasonable condition and still holds services on the occasions that the military opens it to the public. It dates from the 13th century and boasts some notable wall paintings dating from the 15th century.

  • Derelict: Most of The Buildings Are Derelict or Demolished

Most of the other buildings are now in a sorry state of repair. Those buildings that have not become derelict were demolished by the Army. A Baptist chapel was demolished in the 1970s. Other buildings that remain include a pub (called "Bell Inn"), the manor house, Imber Court, a farmhouse, farm cottages, four council housing blocks, and a schoolroom. A number of buildings have also been damaged from the explosions.

Related: The Eerie California Ghost Town Looks Like An (Abandoned) Wild West Movie Set

Visting Imber Village And St. Giles Church

The annual church service is held on the Saturday nearest to 1 September (St Giles' Day). Other days the village is open to the public including certain public holidays and around Christmas.

Church Of St. Giles:

  • Open: The Church Still Holds Services On Select Days
  • Age: Dates From the 13th Century

The church itself is protected as a Grade I listed building and is now the only building not owned by the Ministry of Defence.

  • Access: Access to The Church Is Possible But Not To The Rest of The Village

If one would like to visit, then one can see when the open dates are on the Imber Church website - no access to Imber is permitted outside of those published times. If one would like to visit other places in Imber Village for filming or other proposes, permission must be obtained directly from the Ministry of Defence - this permission is unlikely to be granted.

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