One of Purbeck’s Finest Country Houses
Tyneham House, or ‘The Great House’ as it was more commonly known was the home of the Bonds.
The Bond family owned Tyneham and as a result, much of the village life revolved around their grand family home. In its heyday it was one of the most beautiful country houses in Dorset.
Originally built in 1523, the three story Elizabethan mansion was set in beautiful grounds with immaculate lawns, lime trees, palms and other tropical plants that were able to survive in the humid micro-climate of the valley.
Extract From The Tyneham DVD – Tyneham Remembered
Tyneham House – After The Evacuation
After the forced evacuation of Tyneham, Tyneham house was used to house members of the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) who were billeted there during the war. After the war it was boarded up and remained more or less intact for the following years. Some missing roof tiles the only real sign of neglect.
After the war was over, Tyneham House was stripped of most of its valuable possessions. Almost all of the interior was taken out so that it could be used in other country houses in England. It is said that much of it was also taken to the United States.
Oak paneling from the interior was relocated to the Dorset County Museum. While doorway from the north porch can now be seen at the Canal at Athelhampton House. The steps were moved to Bingham’s Melcombe. Unfortunately this is a private house so these can no longer be viewed by the public.
In 1958 an architect working for the Ancient Monuments Commission declared that the internal construction was far beyond repair. He stated that the reconstruction would have cost over £30,000! Back in the 1950s that was an astronomical amount of money. However if they has gone ahead with the reconstruction, how much would it be worth today?
In 1966 a spokesman from the MOD stated that the house had never been used as target practice, but they were discussing the possibility of demolishing it. This account events was not believed by a lot of people. At this time the windows were all boarded up making it impossible to see inside the house. Some people believed this was to hide damage to the interior caused by army shelling.
In 1968 an article in The Times reported that the MOD was actually now in the process of demolishing Tyneham House.
It had been assessed and decided that it couldn’t be restored, thus leaving demolition as the only option. Despite this assessment, photographic evidence shows that this was clearly not the case and the Great House could have easily been restored and preserved much like the church and school were.
The circumstances were clearly different though. Few people had ever seen the house, let alone knew the whereabouts of it. Unlike the church and school which were well and truly in the public eye, Tyneham House was hidden away in Tyneham’s Great Wood, roughly half a mile from the village itself.
The Tyneham Remembered DVD has an interview with former resident, Doug Churchill. He recalls standing in the woods seeing the army stripping the house bare and loading the contents into trucks.
“The remains of The Great House before it was finally demolished. Looking like only a shadow of
it’s former glory, it could have been restored.”
Many people believe that because the house was hidden away in the Great Wood, it enabled the army to act quickly in destroying this wonderful country mansion. As mentioned before, many people felt it was to cover up damage done by the army while others theorized it was actually to cover up that most of the interior had been stripped away by army personnel.
The Army have since realized that this was a huge mistake and would rather keep whatever is left of Tyneham House out of the public’s eye.. Thus it is left hidden away in the Great Wood and is impossible to see when visiting the village itself.
There are still some vantage points in the surrounding countryside where it’s still possible to see the the remains of this once grand building, all be it, from a distance. The best chance to catch a glimse of what remains of Tyneham House is in the winter when there is less greenery.