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Wiltshire Community History

Imber Search Results

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This page is one of 261 pages covering every community in Wiltshire, and is provided by Wiltshire Council Libraries and Heritage. A project to provide a fuller picture of each community is in progress, working on the larger communities first. When these 261, which are modern civil parishes, are completed we will begin work on a further 180 villages and hamlets to provide comprehensive coverage of Wiltshire communities large and small.

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

This is a corrected and updated edition of the 1773 map that includes the recently built canals.

Map of the former Civil Parish of Imber:

Map of the former Civil Parish of Imber

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

From the Ordnance Survey 1890s revision of the one inch to one mile map. Imber is now part of the civil parish of Heytesbury, Imber and Knook.

Thumbnail History:

Imber is the ghost village of the Salisbury Plain. Kelly's directory for 1939 tells us it has an ancient church and a Baptist Chapel, that it has an area of 3,052 acres and in 1931 its population was 152. It also says that the soil is flinty, the subsoil chalk and that the chief crops are wheat, oats, barley and pasture. Ominously it also records that the principal landowner is the War Office.

Although there is evidence of prehistoric and Roman settlement in the area, the first documentary mention of Imber is in 967, when it was part of an endowment to the Abbess of Romsey. It is mentioned in Domesday as being held by Ralph of Mortimer, but this probably only referred to that part of the village not held by Romsey Abbey. It has been estimated that the population at that time was about 50. By 1377 the population had risen to 250, probably remaining at that level till the nineteenth century. By 1801 it had risen to 331, by1851 it had reached a peak of 440. Then it commenced a decline, to 339 in 1881, 261 in 1901, till by 1931 there were just 152 inhabitants.

Imber was a community dependent upon agriculture. Those who were not directly employed on the land were in trades dependent upon it. The decline in population is also reflected in a decline in activity. The directory of 1867 lists 6 farmers, a tailor (and shopkeeper), a miller (and Innkeeper), a boot and shoemaker and a blacksmith (and shopkeeper). Whereas the 1939 directory lists 4 farmers, a smallholder, an innkeeper, a carpenter and a blacksmith.

The village was in quite an isolated position, sheltering in a fold in the downs some four miles from the nearest village. It was elongated in shape, its main street following the course of a stream known as "Imber Dock". The only building still more or less intact is the church. This was described in the 1939 directory as "an ancient and beautiful stone building of various dates, mainly in the decorated and perpendicular styles. It has an embattled western tower with five pinnacles and containing five bells". The description of the interior mentions the effigies of two knights (now to be seen in Edington church). The Baptist chapel, built in 1839, is also mentioned (this was demolished some time ago and only the graveyard remains). Besides a number of substantial farmhouses, the main building of note was Imber Court. This was the manor house, rebuilt in the eighteenth century, burnt down in 1920 and subsequently restored. Refreshment was supplied by the Bell Inn.

What happened to Imber? From the late nineteenth century military manoeuvres had been held on parts of the Salisbury Plain and in 1897 the War Office began purchasing land in the South East of the plain. The first world war and after saw and increase in the need for such land and between 1927 and 1932 the War Office purchased a substantial part of the north and west of the plain. This included most of the village of Imber and its inhabitants became tenants of the military. In the Second World War the need for training areas intensified, especially in the preparations for D-Day. On the 1st November 1943 the tenants were given just 47 days notice to quit. Many of them left believing that they had been promised a return after the war. This was not to happen, it has been a training area ever since. Much of the old village has since disappeared. In a final irony the army has built a mock village, for training purposes, on the edge of the old one.

Imber is now a part of the parish of Heytesbury Imber and Knook.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilHeytesbury, Imber & Knook Parish Council
Parish Web Sitewww.heytesburyparish.co.uk
Parish Emailjackiekirkby@btinternet.com

Churches: Information on both current and disused churches and chapels.

Schools: Information on both current and closed schools.

Population 1801 - 2011

Photographs: If images have been added for this community they are available here.: We hold a collection of over 50,000 photographs of places in Wiltshire in the County Local Studies Library. These may be viewed at this library and copies of out of copyright material may be purchased. We can search for a picture of a building or event if you e-mail us with details.

Historical Sources: A select list of books and articles is listed in 'Printed material'. You may go directly to the actual text from some of these.

Printed Material: This is a select book-list for the community but in the case of a town there may be hundreds more books, pamphlets and journal articles.

The full text of some items is available to view on this site.

The Victoria History of Wiltshire (opens in new window) is a partnership between local authorities and the Institute of Historical Research at London University. The History of Wiltshire is now the largest county history in the country and is still growing. The volumes are divided between general and topographical with Volumes One to Five covering subjects such as prehistory, ecclesiastical, economic and political history. The Volumes from Six onwards are topographical and will ultimately provide a comprehensive and systematic history of every single town and parish in the county.

(opens in new window) Explore Wiltshire's Past web site

Newspapers from 1738: These newspapers covered this community at different times. Newspaper titles in bold text are either the ones you should check first for information about this community.


Maps: listed are maps on which you can find this community. All maps are Ordnance Survey maps.


Archaeological Sites: A Sites and Monuments Record (opens new window) is maintained by the County Archaeology Service and covers some 20,000 sites. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society was formed in 1853 and have been publishing an annual journal since 1854. The journal contains both substantial articles and shorter notes on archaeological excavations, finds, museum objects, local history, genealogy and natural history.

Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Imber

Folk Biographies from Imber

Folk Plays from Imber

History of Buildings: The collections of the Wiltshire Buildings Record are housed in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

Listed Buildings: The number of buildings listed, as being of architectural or historic importance, is five. There are no Grade I listings and one Grade II* listings, the Church of St. Giles.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

Local Authors: There could be an author who was born or has lived in this community.

Literary Associations: Some communities have featured in novels or may have been the main setting for a book.

Registration Districts: If you want to obtain a copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate you can contact the local registrar.


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Wiltshire & Swindon Archives

Wiltshire Wills Search by name, occupation, or subject for details of a will from this parish held in the Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office.

Genuki Family History - Wiltshire

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