Forever Imber

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* Little Imber on the Down by Rex Sawyer  

(Published by Hobnob Press, £9.95 - click here)

The publisher writes: " Little Imber on the Down, by Rex Sawyer, is the first book to be devoted to the history of this Salisbury Plain community, a remote village which until sixty years ago carried on its life to a large extent untouched by the outside world. In 1943 the villagers were all required to leave, so that Imber could be handed over to the army for military training. Everyone believed that after the war those evicted would be allowed to return, and a long campaign against officialdom was waged by their supporters, but to no avail. Imber, except for soldiers, is now deserted and largely destroyed, and most of its former inhabitants have died. But the community and its history live on in memories and photographs, and Rex has had the full co-operation of the surviving villagers and their descendants while writing this moving and poignant book. With an engaging text and over a hundred evocative illustrations, mostly photographs, the unique village of Imber is brought to life again. First published in 2001, and in steady demand ever since, this book now appears in paperback for the first time."
March 2008, 176 pages, illustrations and maps, paperback.  ISBN 978-0-946418-72-5.

* The Lost Villages - Rediscovering Britain's Vanished Communities by Henry Buckton

(Published by I.B.Tauris, £20)

This new book, with a chapter on Imber, was published on 30 April 2008. It includes interviews with former villagers Ken Mitchell (grandson of Albert Nash the blacksmith) and John Williams, whose mother was Imber's last school teacher. Try your local bookshop or order direct from the publisher on  

A direct link to the book is: /display.asp?ISB=9781845116712 &TAG=&CID The publisher writes: "Across Britain there are more than 3,000 lost villages once-thriving communities that time and fortune have reduced to ivy-clad remnants and weather-worn ruins. Echoes of a former age, they evoke a natural curiosity as to who lived in them, what caused their decline. Bestselling author Henry Buckton goes in search of some of the Britain's more recent lost villages: Hallsands in Devon, swept away in a violent storm; the communities of Vatersay and Mingulay, in Scotland, victims to the changing fortunes of the local laird; and the picture-perfect village of Imber in Wiltshire, requisitioned for the nation in time of war but never given back. Combining rare photographs and the memories of those who knew the villages, the author provides a timely account of communities whose stories would otherwise soon be lost for ever."

Henry Buckton grew up in Somerset, where he qualified in graphic design. He maintains a longstanding interest in social history and is the author of a number of successful books, including Yesterday's Country Village (2005) in which he also writes about Imber and Friendly Invasion (2006).

Iain Finlayson reviewed this book in The Times on 7 June 2008:

"It's not difficult to lose a village - the historical processes of bad weather, bad landlords, bad social planning and bad faith by governments will usually do the trick. The people are dispersed, the walls fall down and roofs collapse through neglect. What is left are a few stones, official records, photographs and nostalgia. Buckton here revisits villages lost in the 20th century and the lives, often difficult, that sustained and animated communities."

* Forever Imber by Ruth Underwood

This book grew out of a leaflet written in September 2001. Over 400 pages and 300 archive and contemporary photographs from many sources, including Austin Underwood's pictures of the 1960s and Richard Hayward's modern day photos, reproduced by Peter Daniels. Spiral bound A4, printed on recycled paper by Speedyprint, Salisbury. Colour front and back covers. Seven sections:

I. Wiltshire born and bred although I've been around the world a little
II. The village lies in a deep fold of the Plain
III. The Wiltshire County Council have betrayed the rights of way
IV. The ultimate hidden persuader
V. We really are a global village
VI. I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. War is hell.
VII. It was broken promises.

It pays tribute to my father Austin Underwood who started the campaign for Imber's restoration in 1961.

It marks a reappraisal of the evacuation of Imber village on Salisbury Plain in 1943 and of the Public Inquiry into the permanent closure of its roads in 1961, concluding that both represent unresolved miscarriages of justice.

St Giles Church, a Grade 1 listed, 13th century building, came under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) in September 2005. The MoD have committed £60,000 towards the £200,000 restoration costs and have promised continuing public access during holiday periods.

Forever Imber proposes that St Giles Church become a centre for community education, creative arts, healing, environmental and historical awareness, interfaith, peace and reconciliation under the juristiction of the CCT.

Quotes from many people with Imber connections. Texts from local history, world religions, peace movement. Poetry from different ages and cultures. Comments on contemporary world politics since September 11. Argues for a re-evaluation of power relations, emphasising the importance of education and personal responsibility.

Argues for disarmament, the promotion of non-violent forms of conflict resolution and the abolition of war. It reflects on the massive anti-war movement against the War in Iraq.

Documents the community gatherings, church services and peace vigils held at Imber between 2002 and 2005. Community gatherings have focused on music, art, drama, peace education and conflict resolution.

Tells the story of the Peace Tree, created at Imber on 30 August 2003.

On New Year's Eve 2002 a small number of people gathered at Imber in a Vigil for World Peace. It led to the New Year's front cover headline in The Warminster Journal: �Pacifists Gather at Imber' - a great message to go out to a military town in an area which houses the Head Quarters of the British Land Forces.

Easter Sunday 11 April 2004 marked 11 years since Austin Underwood died on Easter Sunday 11 April 1993.

The 2004 New Year's Eve Peace Vigil was attended by representatives from the Quakers, Devizes Peace Group, Swindon Interfaith, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and Movement for the Abolition of War.

If you are interested in Imber's story, its future and the development of a culture of peace, and would like to reserve a copy of Forever Imber when it is eventually published (hopefully by the end of 2008), please send an email to [email protected] . Many thanks to those people who are waiting patiently for this book and who have given invaluable moral and financial support towards the process of bringing Forever Imber into being. Forever Imber has been generously sponsored by Peter Daniels of Active UK (Visual Communications) Limited, Salisbury, without whom this project would not have been possible.

"Dear Ruth, Your essay about Imber is deeply moving and I hope it is widely read and studied. It reminds us that war and preparations for war can destroy humanity in victor nations as well as in those which are vanquished. In love and peace, Tony"
Tony Benn, former Labour MP and veteran peace activist

"Ruth Underwood's history of Imber is a wonderful labour of love. It is rich in the stories of those who cared for Imber's history and humanity of whom her father Austin was one of the greatest. But it is also a labour of hope for a different future in which Imber, a victim of war, might become a centre for peace. "Oh it's totally unrealistic" said one Member of Parliament about these peaceful plans. I love people who say so confidently that projects are unrealistic. Those with imagination and vision so often prove them wrong. I suspect that Ruth will, with her fellow Imber campaigners do just that."
Bruce Kent, founder of the Movement for the Abolition of War, former Chair of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

"In 1940 my mother, brother and I went to live in Imber, after our home in Plymouth was destroyed by German bombs. Imber was my father's childhood home and while my grandparents still lived in their cottage in the village, father was away fighting Germans. The village was an idyllic place for a small boy to grow up in and I have very clear, strong memories of my time there. Thanks very much Ruth, for writing �Forever Imber' which, among other things, highlights the injustice suffered by the villagers and makes the case for restoring Saint Giles Church, outside of which my father's ashes were scattered. Thanks also for following in your father's footsteps and campaigning not just for Imber justice, but also for World Peace."
The late Bill Meaden, former President of the National Association of Retired Firefighters and Trustee for Age Concern England

"This body they may kill But truth abideth still."
Bach Chorale


The following books have good information and archive photographs of Imber and its people:

* Chris Corden: The Plain: Life on Salisbury Plain from the 1890s to the Present Day (Halsgrove,1998)
* Peter Daniels & Rex Sawyer: Salisbury Plain (The Archive Photographs Series, Chalford, 1996)
* Peter Daniels & Rex Sawyer: Salisbury Plain: A Second Selection (The Archive Photographs Series, Chalford, 1997)