Midsomer Murders….. and deserted villages

Why Midsomer Murders? – All will be revealed in a moment…..

Over the summer of 2016 a trip to Dorset allowed a number of sites to be visited on the ground. One of the sites did not make it into the original Gazetteer of deserted sites from 1968. It was not that this site was unknown at this point – but would seemingly be a result of a decision not to include this and other similar sites – this will be a topic of the next post.

The site in question is Tyneham. Requisitioned by the army in 1943 for the preparations for D-Day it has remained abandoned since, but is now open to the public when the army range is not in use. Today, particularly during the summer months, it is a popular tourist hot spot.

This is not the only similar settlement to suffer such a fate – more below….. and a similar village formed the focus of a recent Midsomer Murders episode (The Village that Rose from the Dead), as local families compete for the recently returned settlement. Redevelopment opportunities create rivals of executive holiday apartments, an eco-village and heritage centre, competing for bids to take over the village. Needless to say, soon the village has seen death by: running over by a tank, cyanide poising and death by positioned snake bites (deserted settlements are apparently an excellent base for illegal tropical snake breading!). The title of the episode ‘The Village that Rose from the Dead’ gives an insight into the nature of the tale to be told, but the name of the village – Little Auburn – harks back to Goldsmith’s 1770 poem ‘The Deserted Village’ with the opening line ‘Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain’.

Tyneham in Dorset first appears on the Medieval Village Research Groups lists of deserted villages on the lists produced in 1988. It was not that sites such as these – modern abandonments of medieval villages, had not be known or considered earlier – it was just that they had not fitted into the traditional idea of a deserted medieval village, perhaps as many of these types of sites had been deserted less than 10 years before the founding of the Deserted Medieval Villages Research Group. Perhaps they thought that they would be returned to use in the near future…..

At Tyneham many of the houses are still standing, although some in better repair than others. The church and school are well maintained as information centres for the village.

The two most well-known of these recently abandoned villages are those of Tyneham in Dorset and Imber in Wiltshire, but other settlements suffered a similar fate. The Stanford training area in Norfolk saw at least six settlements vacated across a wide area to allow live ammunition practice from 1942. This is still a live practice range and therefore has limited public access although a number of churches do survive from the earlier settlements. The settlements include Buckenham Tofts (appears on 1968 list), Langford (appears on 1968 list), Stanford, Sturston (appears on 1968 list), Tottington and West Tofts.

All these sites are still contained within MOD land and so access is controlled – but visits are possible – Tyneham is the easiest and most accessible. For information about visiting these sites see:

Tyneham – https://www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/389942

Imber – http://www.imberchurch.org.uk/index.html

Edits to published sites

When the Medieval Village Research Group Archive was visited in March 2016 additional information on a number of sites was gathered. The following lists the edits made to the website from these records. Also the work on the 1977 list of deserted villages threw up some other errors on the website and these have also been corrected. Finally – thanks to a number of individuals who have emailed in with some corrections – and if any one spots anymore – please let us know!


We have also added references to CUCAP photos to a number of Durham sites that were viewed from archive – part of ongoing project to link photos now viewable on the CUCAP website….


Slingley – now classed as Doubtful as the card index file for this site showed the thorough process of consideration that suggested there is no physical and very little documentary evidence for the settlement and that this site had been identified due to the presence of an empty parish.


Newbold Saucey – corrected typo in grid reference SK765090

Whittington – Longitude and Latitude were missing – now added.


Adewelle – This had been changed from  TF grid reference to a TA grid reference – it is actually a TF reference but it was the grid reference that was placing it in the wrong county. This has been altered and will be discussed in further detail when the full description for the site is written. This change now places the site in Kesteven, not Lindsey.

Audby – This was misspelt in 1968 and should be Autby

Kingersby – This was misspelt in 1968 and should be Kingerby

Hungerton – corrected typo in grid reference SK873302


Seaton Delavel – corrected typo in grid reference NZ320763


Copcourt – corrected typo in grid reference SP707010


Heathcote – error in the Longitude and Latitude resulted this being placed on the maps in the sea off the Isle of Man!

Yorkshire West Riding

Battersby – correction to letters in original grid reference – should be SD not SE

Huddleston – corrected typo in grid reference SE465340

Humberton – this appears in the Gazetteer as located in the West Riding. However it is actually located in the North Riding.


Missing sites

During the resolution of the 1977 list of deserted sites it has become clear that a site from the original Gazetteer were omitted from the initial launch of the website. This will be added once the counties are reviewed and data added :


Thorpe – TL 899906


There are a number of other corrections that being made website as we go along and please do get in touch if you spot any more issues!