NEARLY 80 years ago, the residents of a tiny Dorset village were forced to abandon their homes by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Tyneham village and surrounding hamlets were cleared before Christmas 1943 to allow Allied forces to prepare for the D-Day landings.

Despite the promises of Winston Churchill, the residents never returned to the village and surrounding areas.

Since then, Tyneham village has been the source of fascination for several decades and has become a popular tourist spot.

Here is the story of the rural Dorset village where timed stopped.

Where is Tyneham village?

Dorset Echo:

The village is based in East Lulworth, near Wareham and lies between the two ridges of the Purbeck Hills.

Tyneham can be accessed off the B3070 where motorists must then follow the signs for the village on the rural road.

The village had a post office, church, school, farmhouses, a rectory and cottages. The entire 3,003-acre site on the Tyneham estate was owned by the Bond family for more than 300 years.

A one-mile walk from the village leads to Worbarrow Bay, which is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

‘We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly’ - When residents were forced to desert their homes

Dorset Echo: The lost village of Tyneham was bought by the MoD. Picture by Arthur GrantThe lost village of Tyneham was bought by the MoD. Picture by Arthur Grant

In Autumn 1943, residents received a letter from the Government to vacate their homes and were given just over a month’s notice to leave.

The place was evacuated to make way for US troops practising for the D-Day landings, with tank firing ranges also set up.

An official letter stated: "The Government appreciate that this is no small sacrifice which you are asked to make, but they are sure that you will give this further help towards winning the war with a good heart."

More than 200 residents packed up their belongings and left the village.

Even the Bond family that occupied Tyneham House, one of Purbeck's most impressive country houses, left their homes for the last time and never returned.

The last person also left a poignant notice on the church door: “Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free.

“We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”

Why residents never returned to Tyneham

Dorset Echo: Tyneham House, Tyneham Village 1968.Tyneham House, Tyneham Village 1968.

The villagers always thought one day they would be able to return home, as promised by the Government.

Sadly after the war, Tyneham became the permanent property of the Ministry of Defence and continued to be used as part of the Lulworth ranges.

While the village was maintained by the military after residents left, the village felt into a state of disarray.

Rodney Legg, a local historian, launched a popular campaign in 1967 to have the village returned, but was unsuccessful. Other locals wrote to the Government in a desperate plea for the village to be returned, but were also unsuccessful.

What is the village like now?

Dorset Echo: Tyneham the deserted village in bloom taken by Simon Gregory.Tyneham the deserted village in bloom taken by Simon Gregory.

Following Mr Legg’s campaign, the military worked with residents to improve access to the site.

In 1975, a compromise was reached whereby the public were given access to the village at weekends but the Ministry of Defence would retain the ranges.

Tyneham church was re-opened in 1979 and is used for carol concerts and remembrance services.

The village’s schoolroom was re-opened as the venue for an exhibition in April 1982. Margaret Bond, who had lived in the village from 1892 to 1935, unveiled a plaque there and revisited the tree she had planted in 1911 for the coronation of George V.

Since then, the rural village has become almost like a museum where tourists can visit the church, school, and derelict properties and learn about its past and villagers.

At Tyneham Farm, some of the outbuildings have been restored and there is a picnic area to enjoy.

The story of Tyneham was also the subject of a play, called ‘Tyneham: No Small Sacrifice’, which was performed at The Bay Theatre in Weymouth in 2013.

The play, written by Jordan Clark to mark the 70th anniversary of the evacuation, saw a group of Dorset musicians and singers tell the story of a village taken over by the military during World War II.

The Village, Worbarrow Bay and Lulworth Ranges continue to be managed by the Ministry of Defence and therefore the village is only accessible on weekends and public holidays.