During WW2 the village of Imber, on Salisbury Plane, was “requisitioned” by the army. The inhabitants were give 6 weeks to pack up their lives and leave, with the assurance of a swift return at the end of hostilities.
But, that assurance proved to give false hope. No return ever took place and Imber became a ghost village; the buildings left to become delipidated, the streets overgrown. All of it out of bounds to anyone in civvy street.
Imber had always been an isolated rural village, in existence since mediaeval times and listed in the Doomsday book. It was largely self-sufficient, even avoiding the ravages of the plagues because of its remote location, part of the appeal to the armed forces (not the bit about the plague, but the isolation)!
After the end of the war, years passed and although it was never forgotten, it was left largely untouched.
The army eventually decided there might be some value to the site as part of its training exercises. The village remained out of bounds and largely forgotten to the rest of us… apart from the church of St. Giles.
Thanks to the energy and desire of a few volunteers, the Church has been cared for and falls under the auspices of the Churches Conservation Trust.
It has become the focus for the history of this old village and is granted permission to have a few “open days” each year when visitors can discover the story of this war-time victim. To aid with this, we were asked to design and install some very simple interpretation graphics. These reveal som interesting aspects associated with the church (such as some 13th C wall paintings), and also with the heritage of the village.
Working in harmony with the setting and themes
In collaboration with researcher and writer, Rowena Riley, we produced a series of interpretation panels and hanging banners, some moveable and some fixed to allow flexible placement to accommodate the various events that take place in the building each year. The result is a low-key intervention, sympathetically designed to convey clearly and simply the story of Imber past and its inhabitants, in keeping with this historic building. The display can also be taken down and stored during the damp winter months.
There are also plans to produce a new guide booklet to provide more information and possibly a video too – all subject to funds become available.
Whilst St. Giles will never host tens of thousands of visitors – the MOD cannot open it up to the public often – but on hi-days and holidays, there is now an opportunity to understand how this isolated village has survived in the form it now takes and to set that alongside the human stories attached to its somewhat surprising role in the defence of our realm.
Find out about open days and visits » St Giles, Imber
“From Jo and Adrian’s first visit to St Giles’, Imber, to look at the possible option for a new interpretation of the story of the village and church, it became clear that the Motivation team had exactly the vision I was looking for. I was very enthused by their inspirational ideas of scale, placement and materials, and the detailed work on layout of the various banners and screens was enormously helpful in piecing together the elements of the story, and the best way of presenting the material.
It was a joy to see the collaboration between their team and the consultant for the project, and clearly there was a rapport which made options easy to compare, and decisions relatively simple. The final product succeeded even my high expectations, and the new display not only tells a complex story with clarity and interest, but the banners and boards enhance the architectural entity of the church, and fit perfectly with the environment.
This has been a fulfilling and very satisfying project with a result that will enhance the visitors’ experience at Imber immeasurably for many years to come, thanks to the highly professional and engaging teamwork from Jo and Adrian.”
Peter Lankester, St Giles, Imber, CCT