There is always a strange aura around ghost towns – once inhabited, yet isolated now. The towns often look like any other town – houses, shops, running water and transport links. Yet the reality is very different. Among the most famous ghost towns in the United Kingdom is Imber – located in the county of Wiltshire, England. So what is the story behind Imber? And why is it isolated? And why has no one ever moved back there since it was left behind? Read on to find out!
To begin with, Imber is actually a village, located in Wiltshire, England. Original settlement in Imber is believed to have began in the Roman era. While always a minimally-populated area, the population hit a peak of around 500 in 1851. The residents of Imber lived happily for several years, until the Second World War arrived, when everything changed. Imber would turn from a village community into a military zone, marking a considerable change!
The first three decades of the 1900s saw the War Office purchasing substantial land around Imber. In the contemporary age, the Salisbury Plains, which Imber is situated within, is mostly dedicated to military installations. With the military offering competitive prices for land, many residents found offers too lucrative to refuse – while helping the war effort. In 1943, when the war was in full swing, the Allies were preparing for the invasion of mainland Europe. Anyone still living in Imber were given a notice period by which they had to eave their homes. US forces would use the village to practice their street-fighting. This would continue throughout the second world war. Over the course of this period, the village fell victim to a lack of maintenance and fell into disrepair.
Despite villagers being told they could return, eventually this wasn’t allowed. A rally in 1961 demanded that the residents were to be allowed to return. The public enquiry held in the aftermath of the rally however suggested that continued military use was the best of course of action for Imber. Since, the only time villagers have returned is for an annual Church service, which takes place at St. Giles Parish Church – on St. Giles Day.
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So to summarise – Imber, the small village, saw its residents leave to help US forces train in 1943. Despite numerous efforts to return, the land has continued to belong to the military. Imber is open on select occasions to the public as a tourist attraction. The village looks set to remain in military control for the foreseeable future. For those who do visit, it is a reminder of what life used to be like – an interesting experience!