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Oh! Calcutta Jeju Loveland, South Korea
Frozen in Time - Titbits
1652    Dibyendu Banerjee    11/07/2019

Hidden in a beautiful valley in Dorset in southwest England, the Tyneham village is frozen in time. It is a forgotten village, where nobody has lived since 1943. Before that, it was an idyllic countryside, located only a couple of miles from the sea and the delightfully picturesque Worbarrow Bay. During those days, it had its own church, school, rectory and several farms. Tyneham House, also known as the Great House, was its most prominent building. Life was idyllic and simple, without electricity or running water, but free from the trouble and strife of the outside world. However, the onset of World War II changed the lives of many people around the world and the people of Tyneham were not an exception.

frozen in time

As the Tyneham village was very near to the Lulworth firing ranges, the War Cabinet of Winston Churchill decided to claim Tyneham village and much of its surrounding area as a place to train the allied forces. Consequently, in the name of National interest, the village of Tyneham was requisitioned in 1943 and the 225 residents of the village were given notice to vacate their homes by 19 December 1943.They were assured that, once the war was over, they would be allowed to return to their homes. Unfortunately, the truth is, no one would ever live in the village again.

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Nobody wanted to leave, but they had to. They believed Churchill and they felt their sacrifice was in the national interest. Before leaving the village, Evelyn Bond, who learned on the same day that her son Mark was missing in action, left a hand-written note on the door of the village's church, St Mary’s, imploring the Army to treat the church and the houses with care. She expressed her hope to come back one day and thanked them for treating the village kindly.

frozen in time

The Great War ended, but the promise on the part of the government was not fulfilled. Despite requests and protests, the military were not interested to leave their new training ground. At the onset of the Cold War, Tyneham village and Lulworth firing ranges became crucial to the government’s defense plans and finally, the Ministry of Defence compulsorily purchased the entire valley for £30,000 in 1952.

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The entire area, littered with scrap used as targets and subject to regular shelling, soon became a haven for wildlife. Many buildings of the deserted village have fallen into disrepair due to lack of maintenance, while many others were severely damaged by shelling. However, the worst blow came in 1985, when during the filming of ‘Comrades’, directed by Bill Douglas, the iconic K-1 telephone box of the village was destroyed and the film company arranged for a replacement.

frozen in time
frozen in time
frozen in time

The disgusted villagers finally launched a campaign to claim back their village. However, it yielded nothing, as the government did not pay any heed to it. In August 1968, Rodney Legg and the Tyneham Action Group held a demo near the army site to protest about the lack of government action, which ended up dragging the matter through years of bureaucratic red tapism and political obfuscation. In view of the circumstances, the protesters changed their tactics and started to campaign for the valley to be given to the National Trust as a national heritage site.

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To the much displeasure of the protesters, the army in their turn, dismantled the historic Tyneham House and moved its valuable stonework to stately homes at Melcombe and Athelhampton. Fortunately, they did not touch the church with a stained window, which remained intact.

st marys church
St Mary’s Church, Tyneham

Eventually, the battle changed direction to open up Tyneham to the public and save its heritage for the nation and after decades of arguments, the army agreed to provide limited access to the village at weekends in the 1990s.By strong public demand, the church and the school building have since been preserved as museums.

After more than seven decades, the roofless structure of a post office, farmhouses, a rectory and cottages offer the curious visitors a glimpse of the life of a long-departed community frozen in time.

Oh! Calcutta Jeju Loveland, South Korea
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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