St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s Church is rather small compared to other churches in the county of Dorset, however it managed to serve the villagers of Tyneham quite adequately.
Built of limestone rubble and dating from the 13th Century, the South transept was rebuilt in the mid 19th century by the Reverand William Bond. Outside in the graveyard you can find memorials to the Bond family of Tyneham House.
After the military took over Tyneham, the church was neglected and fell into disrepair. Some of the fittings were moved out to other places. For example, the bells and organ were moved to Steeple church and the Jacobean pulpit was moved to Lulworth Camp.
Today, Tyneham’s church has been restored and now serves two separate purposes. First and foremost it’s a museum of the village’s history. It contains many charts and displays, recording both the broad history and the minutiae of village life – there are documents, artifacts, time lines, old photographs and everything else you’d expect to find in a small town museum.
The second function of the church is to act as a sort of memorial shrine to the ‘idyllic life’ that the inhabitants had so unfairly taken away from them. The names of the villagers now line the inside walls and also grace a restored bible.
When the villagers left the for the last time, they pinned a note to the church door.
The note read:
“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.“