A Brief History of Tyneham

William The ConquerorThe history of Tyneham dates all the way back to the time of William the Conqueror who gave parcels of land to his brother, the Earl of Mortain. Records for the following period are scarce to say the least, but in the 14th century it’s recorded that the Tyneham was owned by the Russel family.

Over the years that followed Tyneham was passed down from father to son for five generations before coming into the ownership of the Chykes and then the Popes who sold Tyneham to john Williams of Herringston. In 1683 Nathaniel Bond of Lutton bought the estate from the Williams Family. From then on Tyneham remained in control of the Bond family.

ChurchillThe most poignant time in the Tyneham’s history began in towards the end of 1943. The village of Tyneham and 7,500 acres of surrounding heathland and chalk down land were commandeered just before the Christmas of 1943 by the Ministry of Defence or War Office as it was known then. The inhabitants left with the understanding that they would be allowed to return at the end of the war, a promise later known as ‘Churchill’s pledge’.

Altogether, 252 people were displaced.

Once the villagers had left, all public access to the range area was banned.

After The War

After the end of the war, people in the local area were surprised that the Army had not begun to immediately vacate the Tyneham valley area. The local authorities, with the help of local landowners and several MPs soon made a representation to the War Department with regards to releasing some of the land which was still being held in the Tyneham area.

A public inquiry followed, however the military argued they still needed the land for training purposes.

Tyneham HouseSpurred on by the on-going destruction of Tyneham House, a renewed campaign to free Tyneham was started in December 1967. The editor of Dorset: The County Magazine, proposed the setting up of an action group that would argue for the release of the Tyneham area. The Tyneham Action Group was set-up in May 1968.

At a press conference held on the 5th July, a Public Trust Fund called ‘Friends of Tyneham’ was set up to act on behalf of the surviving ex-residents of Tyneham who wished to return home.

The Government finally published its White Paper in August 1974. It said that it was unable to accept the recommendation that the Tyneham area was no longer needed for army training.


Today, Tyneham still remains off limits for much of the year. There are specific periods each year when Tyneham is open to the general public.

Tyneham today

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