Tyneham & Worbarrow

… where time stopped in 1943

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Daily Echo, Tuesday 11th November 2008

Tyneham residents return to village

By Nick Churchill

FORMER residents of the abandoned Purbeck village of Tyneham have returned to the homes they knew as children to tell their stories for a new DVD.

Tyneham Remembered is the latest film produced by Wareham wildlife cameraman Rod Goodhand and features the memories of four interviewees who grew up in the village before its evacuation by the Army in December 1943.

Arthur Grant, from Wareham, speaks with real emotion about his fondness for the village, concluding that although the Army promised villagers they could return at the end of World War Two he’s rather glad they didn’t because the village will never spoiled by the modern world.

Doug Churchill, the son of Tyneham Farm’s last tenant, sheds light on how the old farmhouse was laid out and remembers the farmyard a little differently to how it is today; while Peter Wellman recalls childhood games of football and being told off by a member of the Bond family for disturbing the game in Tyneham Wood.

And Rose Hopley travelled from her home in Southampton to talk about the time she spent staying in The Row, the terrace of cottages as you enter the village.

It makes for a fascincating account of a world gone by.

“I met some wonderful people making this film,” says Rod. “There’s still a lot of sensitivity about certain aspects of Tyneham, particularly Tyneham House itself, but we’re really pleased with how this has turned out – there’s a mystery about Tyneham that seems to draw people in and capture their imaginations.”

Rod’s film also explores the lesser known community that sprang up around Worbarrow Bay. Nearly all traces of the houses and homes there have long since disappeared, but in interview and anecdote the film reveals a thriving commuity of fishermen, farm workers and the rich on holiday – Hollywood star Mary Pickford once stayed there.

Rod has also released Dorset Towns and Villages Volume Two which covers Dorchester, Abbotsbury, Burton Bradstock, Bridport and West Bay and Lyme Regis. Presented in his trademark relaxed style, with carefully composed shots and some great wildlife footage, it represents the perfect introduction to the major communities of the west of the county. Both DVDs are available for around £13.99 from all local branches of Waterstones, Farwell’s, Wareham, Wool Village News, Swanage Bookshop, tourism offices and at amazon.co.uk – or for £10 direct from Rod at rmgwildlifeimages.com

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Daily Echo, Tuesday 7 October 2008

Finding the people from lost villages

By Ed Perkins

POST Office Row in Tyneham, the Purbeck village evacuated during the Second World War in the national interest, is today a favourite subject of tourists' photographs.

The unusual red and white phone box - now with the "press-button A or B" box inside - is a reminder for many of how things were in the past.

But who lived in those cottages in the row before the village was reluctantly abandoned?

A new book by Henry Buckton entitled The Lost Villages seeks to rediscover the lives of the people who once lived in settlements in England that are now abandoned.

Tyneham is the subject of a chapter and Buckton looks at the nature of the village in the beautiful valley that, in 1943 when it became an Army training area, had, one source records, 102 properties in the parish inhabited by 252 people.

The estate then belonged to the Bond family and on the day that WRG Bond received the letter informing him that, like the villagers, his family would have to vacate the manor house within 28 days, he also received a telegram reporting that his son, Mark, was missing in action.

In fact Mark Bond had been captured and spent the rest of the hostilities in a German PoW camp.

Tyneham itself was made up of several groups of cottages but perhaps the most photographed today are the four in Post office Row.

"The first of these was traditionally the home of the shepherd," writes Buckton. "He also had a sheep-house in the hills," Here he would spend long nights in the lambing season.

"Shepherd Lucas was a revered authority and lived in the cottage for many years; his wife acted as a voluntary district nurse to whom people would come with minor ailments."

Next cottage was the Post Office and village shop where Mrs Driscoll, the last postmistress, would supply the village with daily requirements - allthough milk and cheese, eggs and salted fish could all be bought at the dairy at Tyneham Farm "The Post Office also had a telephone in the kitchen, which was only used for sending and receiving telegrams.

"In the 1940s a new public telephone box was installed in front of the Post office.

"The Hollands lived in the third cottage, which was reserved for a farm worker and his family. Percy Holland had been employed at Tyneham farm since he was 11, working his way up to become the carter in charge of all the working horses on the estate."

His mother, "Granny Holland" was the local midwife.

The final cottage in the row was reserved for the schoolteacher with its garden backing on to the village school. The school closed in 1932 when its final schoolmistress was Miss Hearne. There were not enough children to make it viable, adds Henry Buckton, who also looks at other houses in the village, and who inhabited them in that pivotal wartime year.

The letter that changed their lives came in November 1943 stating that they would have to sacrifice their homes.

Their hopes of returning after the war were ended when the Army compulsorily purchased the entire valley.

The Lost Villages by Henry Buckton, I B Taurus ISBN 978 1 84511 671 2

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Dorset Echo, Tuesday 22 April 2008

Memories of life in 'ghost village'

TYNEHAM, a tiny community near the Dorset coast, had a past stretching back to the Bronze Age. Remote and picturesque, it was the epitome of the English village until the mid-20th century, complete with manor house, village school, shop, church and farms.

Then in December 1943, with the Second World War at its height, the village was cleared of its inhabitants to provide a training ground for soldiers prior to the D-Day landings... The villagers never returned.

Drawing on the memories of Helen Taylor, one-time seamstress at Tyneham House, Dr Andrew Norman presents a vivid portrait of this now vanished community in his new book Tyneham, A Tribute, and shows what life was really like in a place where labour and laughter lived side by side.

In the book Dr Norman says: 'Like many visitors to the now largely ruined village of Tyneham, I was led to wonder what circumstances had led to its decline, and ask myself what life was really like when this was a living, breathing, and vibrant community.

'The answer came in a quite unexpected way, when in August 1986, I happened to meet Miss Helen Taylor, formerly seamstress at Tyneham House; also her elder sister Elizabeth, known as 'Bessie'.

'At that time they were living at Corfe Castle - having been evicted from Tyneham, along with all the other villagers, in December 1943.

'When Miss Taylor allowed me to make a voice recording of her reminiscences, this was just prior to her 85th birthday, when Bessie was aged 94. I immediately thought to myself what a wonderful story this would make.

'It is surely too good to waste; not only from the point of view of entertainment, but also for the historical record that it provides.

'I was also fortunate to meet and receive assistance from General Mark Bond, whose father Ralph was the last owner of Tyneham House. He provided details of life 'upstairs', as it were, as opposed to 'downstairs'.

'By a strange coincidence, Miss Taylor spent her declining years in a nursing home in Swanage which I happened to own. She kindly elaborated on many of the fascinating stories which she had told me on our first meeting.'

Tyneham - A Tribute is published by Halsgrove priced £7.99.


Dorset Echo, Tuesday 11 March 2008

Movies siren at Tyneham

By Ed Perkins

BEFORE it was evacuated during the war to make way for the Army, the village of Tyneham had one famous visitor.

Hollywood star Mary Pickford - recently the subject of a song by Katie Melua - was as well known in her heyday as Nicole Kidman is today.

But the Canadian pioneer movie star of such films as the poor Little Rich Girl, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Coquette, visited a house called Sheepleaze, close to Tyneham and overlooking Worbarrow Bay.

Her visit is referred to in Tyneham: A Tribute, a new book by Poole author Dr Andrew Norman about life in the village before the residents were evacuated in the Second World War and never allowed to return.

Before she passed away, Dr Norman recorded the reminiscences of Helen Taylor who was a former seamstress at Tyneham House. He also spoke to many other former residents of the parish.

His book takes a look at the village, including the church, school, farm and house, as well as the lives of several villagers including, for example, farm labourer George Richards, the last person in Tyneham to wear a smock, and fisherman Henry Williams and his wife Louise.

Capturing the feel of the times, he relates such episodes as the row in 1929 over the General Post Office's plan to erect a red telephone kiosk. Owner of Tyneham House Mr W H Bond was not amused.

"The old squire wouldn't have a great, red box disgracing his village," recalled Miss Taylor.

A compromise was reached and a concrete telephone kiosk erected... painted white. It can still be seen in the ruined village today.

The visit of Mark Pickford, however, occurred eight years earlier.

Sheepleaze had been built in 1911 as a summer holiday retreat by a London barrister, Warwick Draper and his wife and three children. In the grounds was a long, thatched building to accommodate visitors, including stage and screen personalities from their London circle.

And Dr Norman's book includes one photo (credited, Joan Brachi) showing Mark Pickford, who was also co-founder of United Artists film studios, with friends at Worbarrow Bay in 1921.

Tyneham: A Tribute by Dr Andrew Norman, Halsgrove (£12.99 hardback, ISBN 9781841146980 or £7.99 paperback ISBN 9781841145662).

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Daily Echo, Saturday 23 February 2008

History wakes up

By Nick Churchill


BENEATH the muck and dust of ages, Tyneham's centuries-old farm is stirring. For nearly 65 years all that has moved through its stables and stalls are bats, creepy-crawlies and the odd range warden - but a new project is under way that will see these buildings restored and reopened.

Not that it will ever be a working farm of course - Purbeck's famed ghost village has long since surrendered all possibility of human habitation - but it will provide a unique vantage point from which we can peer into the past.

I’m lying awake at night working out how I can bring the whole thing together, but the idea is to show how the farm worked�

Lilian Bonds

Project manager and designer Lynda Price and her husband John have already cleared the pond by the time I find them ankle-deep in mud.

A small double-arched bridge has been uncovered, and so, to their surprise, has the cobbled floor of the stream. "This must have been for decoration, because I can't imagine why someone would go to all that trouble if they only used the stream to flush away waste from the stables," says Lynda.

"It's a puzzle, one of many, but that's what I love about this job.

"Lilian Bond called this the Pond Yard in her book (Tyneham: A Lost Heritage) but, although she gives very detailed descriptions, I have no idea how this was laid out. I'd imagine there's a stone road over that bridge as this was the main entrance to the farm from what they called the Lulworth road."

Tyneham and the surrounding area was evacuated in 1943 to allow Allied troops to exercise in the build-up to the Normandy landings. The villagers and the estate's owners, the Bond family, never returned.

Retained as part of Lulworth Ranges, for decades it remained largely unseen, gradually returning to nature until the mid-1970s when the Ministry of Defence agreed greater public access on weekends and holidays.

In 1994, the old school was reopened, restored to how it looked in the 1920s. Work followed on the church and many of the cottages with a series of displays explaining village life under what was, to all intents and purposes, the last vestiges of feudal England.

Swanage-based artist Lynda has now turned her attention to Tyneham Farm. "The farmhouse is only two bricks high, so that is lost, as are some of the other buildings.

"But the Great Barn, the granary, stables, tack room and cowsheds are all there. So is the mysterious bull house, which had a chicken coop on top."

She plans to reopen the main barn as The History Barn, for use by community groups and schools, as well as placing the farm in its historical and environmental context.

One wall appears to have been painted blue. "Well, Lilian Bond talks about the Tyneham Players, and the shows they put on. Her father erected a stage on the north aisle, so it could be that they painted it. She says they used to have up to 160 people sitting in there."

In the store above the 1904 coach house, Lynda opens the shutter doors and the light floods in.

The original tiles are on the roof and, although part of the timber framing has been patched up, there are materials here that are hundreds of years old.

"Most of this is 1904 because we know the steps were originally on the outside of the building, but the stables, stalls and mangers are part of a much older building.

"I'm lying awake at night working out how I can bring the whole thing together, but the idea is to show how the farm worked and to look at the decline of small farming communities. It will also acknowledge the radar research work at Brandy Bay."

Lynda is on the lookout for pre-1940s farm implements and excitedly showed me photos of long-redundant chaff-cutters and hay-balers sent to her by a property developer who was impressed by her work at Tyneham.

"You get involved in every aspect of the project - from tracing families to finding the right wood and stone, designing displays and clearing bramble."

Her boundless enthusiasm surfaces again as she shares with me a letter from the nephew of Walter Case-Smith, the tenant farmer until the early 1940s.

He talks about a much-admired flock of Dorset Horn sheep and how the milk had to be stored overnight in tanks of water to keep it fresh in summer before a lorry arrived to take it to Corfe Castle.

"It's amazing what you find out - Walter Case-Smith was quite a character. The field in front of the farmhouse was open, so cows, chickens and sheep would be out grazing together. You wouldn't see that nowadays."

The last tenant of Tyneham Farm was one S C Churchill. "Now he wasn't very popular. He was a newcomer for one thing, but he also brought the first tractors to the valley.

"Previously everything had been done by horse, so he laid farmworkers off - and, of course, he got all the compensation when the village was evacuated."

As with the rest of the work at Tyneham, the farm project is not commercially-driven.

The village remains a gentle oasis for the imagination untainted by tea rooms, gift shops and hi-tech displays, allowing the ruins to retain the mystery that has captured the minds of thousands of visitors over the years.

"I can't stand that phrase visitor centre' - it's so dry and dull," says Lynda.

"What I love about Tyneham is that it's a great place for people of all ages where they are not hassled by ice cream sellers, hot dog stands and souvenir stalls.

"The Army does not have a vast budget of taxpayers' money for Tyneham, so I've had to get very good at asking people for things for nothing and the £2 parking fee really does pay for the upkeep."

Clearing work continues - much of it involving community groups such as the Lulworth Society - but as befits this window on Purbeck's past, there's no set date for the reopening of Tyneham Farm. Things have a habit of working out when they're meant to.

"There is a plan of sorts, but no timetable. There are so many possibilities - it's very exciting."

The Great Barn at Tyneham Farm will be open to the public on March 22. If you have old farm implements or other ephemera that may find a home at Tyneham, please contact range liaison officer Lt Col Ken Davies on 01929 404714.

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Daily Echo, Saturday 16 February 2008

Historic farm site set for restoration work

By Nick Churchill

WORK is under way to restore Tyneham Farm, which has been closed to the public since the evacuation of the village in 1943.

Swanage-based artist Lynda Price has set out to restore the centuries-old farm buildings and plans to open the great barn as The History Barn to be used as a community space with interpretive displays placing the farm in its historical and environmental context.

"I can't stand that phrase visitor centre', it's so dry and dull," says Lynda.

"What I love about Tyneham is that it's a great place for people of all ages where they are not hassled by ice cream sellers, hot dog stands and souvenir stalls.

"The Army does not have a vast budget of taxpayers' money for Tyneham, so I've had to get very good at asking people for things for nothing and the £2 parking fee really does pay for the upkeep."




News from 2008


Mary Pickford

HISTORY: Restoring Tyneham Farm Picture: Corin Messer

Tyneham and the surrounding area was evacuated in 1943 to allow Allied troops to exercise in the build-up to the Normandy landings. The villagers and the estate's owners, the Bond family, never returned.

Retained as part of Lulworth Ranges, for decades it remained largely unseen until the Ministry of Defence agreed greater public access on weekends and holidays.

In 1994, the old school was reopened, restored to how it looked in the 1920s. Work followed on the church and many of the cottages with a series of displays explaining village life.

"The farmhouse is only two bricks high, so that is lost, as are some of the other buildings," says Lynda.

"But the Great Barn, the granary, stables, tack room and cowsheds are all there.

"So is the mysterious bull house which had a chicken coop on top."

Lynda is on the look out for pre-1940s farm equipment and if you have any old implements or other ephemera that may find a home at Tyneham, please contact Range Liaison Officer, Lt Col Ken Davies on 01929 404714.

See the Magazine with Saturday's Echo for a full feature on the restoration work at Tyneham Farm. Also, historic photos and a look at the buildings as they are now.


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