The ghosts of thousands of long-forgotten villages haunt Britain, communities suddenly deserted and left to ruin. Back in 2010, a campaign was launched to shed light on these places and their forgotten histories, to find out what happened and why.
To mark the launch of the new Times Atlas of Britain, the publisher Collins asked people to send in their memories of such places, to create a digital archive dedicated to these lost locations. Their blog in October 2010 highlighted the places they were particularly interested in and included two places close to our offices in Wiltshire.
Firstly, the village of Snap which was always historically small with a population of just 41 in 1851. By 1909, there were only two residents and the village was deserted by 1914. Most of the buildings were destroyed when the site was used for military training in the First World War, and were later plundered for building materials. Only earthworks are now visible and the village name is remembered in Snap Farm.
And then there was Imber, the entire population of which was evicted in 1943 to provide an exercise area for American troops preparing for the invasion of Europe during the Second World War. After the war, villagers were not allowed to return their homes. The uninhabited village, which is still classed as an urban entity, remains under the control of the Ministry of Defence (despite several attempts by former residents to return) on Salisbury Plain.
Stephen Fisk visits Britain’s abandoned villages and documents them on his website. He is quoted by the BBC as saying that 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 behalf.”
Now, maybe I am being a little blind but I cannot find the promised digital archive …. can you?