Imber is a small village in the county of Wiltshire. It is located in the middle of Salisbury Plain in southern England. Earliest records of Imber date back to 967 AD and the village is mentioned in the Domesday Book, (1086). Most inhabitants of this small, isolated village were involved in farming the surrounding land.

At its peak, (in 1851), the village population reached 440 but then a steady decline set in as the effects of the Industrial Revolution and increasing mechanisation reduced the number of agricultural jobs. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Imber's population stood at 261. By 1944, the village population had reached zero and has remained there ever since.

Population: 0

As agriculture in the surrounding area declined, the miltary's interest in the large wilderness of Salisbury Plain was increasing. Large areas of the plain were given over to artillery ranges as Britain's armed forces trained during World War I. In the eyes of the MoD, Imber was a nuisance: it just got in the way. The further decline in British agriculture between the wars did nothing to stem the MoD's grip on this area and, on November 1st, 1943, the remaining inhabitants of Imber were served notice to leave by December 17th, in order to free up the area completely for military training.

And that was it. No-one has lived in Imber for the last 59 years. The village which had lasted 19 centuries and had even escaped the ravages of the Black Death in the mid-14th Century was obliterated by the stroke of a civil servant's pen. The US military were the first to use Imber as a training ground and apparently treated the area with respect. However, any vain hopes of return held by the evicted villagers were dashed once the British Army got hold of the place and took it apart. It was almost as if the MoD had decided they wanted this place for good. Post-war, Imber continues to be used for training in FIBUA, ('Fighting In Built-Up Areas").

The MoD has built ugly new structures to replace the originals that have succumbed to the combined attentions of artillery shells and scavengers. Very few of the original buildings remain and most of those are simply shells: the notable exception is St. Giles Church, a Grade II listed building built in the 13th Century. The survival of St. Giles most probably due to the fact that the MoD does not own the church itself - just the village surrounding it.

The village of Imber is re-opened to the public on the first Saturday of September so that people can attend a church service and visit the graves of relatives on the feast of St. Giles.

Less and less people attend the service every year.


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