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Guide to the Ghost Towns and

Deserted Villages of

GREAT BRITAIN

 

 

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Western & Eastern Treasures

Ghost Town USA Column Index for International

Ghost Town USA dedicates this page to the memory of my late friend and long-time English penpal, Brian Haley who for many years traded historic information and license plates with me over “The Pond”.  From one of Brian’s letters, dated September 16, 1984, he wrote:

 

 Deserted Villages…managed to at last find up an old article from the library at work and an Ordnance Survey map which shows the Stanford Battle area.  It no longer shows on the petrol company and touring maps.  The area is about 20 miles from here (Norwich, Norfolk, England) near Watton, where my wife spent part of her childhood.

     “On the same subject…  You realise that this is the most easterly part of the U.K. and sticking out into the North Sea we’re subject to some pretty fierce seas in winter.  Consequently, although we have one or two splendid sandy beaches we also have a lot of coastal erosion in places.  Long way to explain that we have one or two ghost towns under the sea!    Frankly, nobody, except tourists are that interested because we’re up to our ears in medieval buildings right here!  Philistines, aren’t we?!”

 

Great Britain (GB) has over 4000 years of settlement history.  For the past 2000 years countless thousands of villages ranging from tiny hamlets and clusters of farms of several houses up through towns have come and gone.  In the rural areas, towns have grown, lived for maybe hundreds of years then faded out.  It will probably never be known how many there were, but the list is constantly growing as, new places are discovered.  As an example, there are at least 150 abandoned villages in Norfolk County alone!

 

As nearly all land in GB is privately owned, and has been for hundreds of years, so most of these villages were established around some tangible location such as a castle, manor, church or monastery.  Most of the buildings were owned by owners of large tracts of land.  They could be the Crown, the Church or wealthy private owners who often lived in large manor homes on large estates surrounded by agricultural land. The farms could be rented out to tenants, who then lived in clusters of homes at the edge of the estates.  There would often be a church and possibly an inn.  An open air market and small shops would help support the population.  The life of the village was subject to the whims of the land owners, and often they would be relocated or reduced in size as prosperity waned, or the owners would reuse land for different purposes.

 

There were also industrial and mill villages as well as seaports and other clusters of populations that waxed and waned with time and economics.  All in all, there is a large amount of archeological AND general interest in studying the old villages of GB.  Desertion of towns and villages is ongoing, and even today, places are abandoned. 

 

So.  Whether you go by the British term “deserted villages” or the American term “ghost towns.” The result is the same.  Thousands of interesting places to seek out and explore!

 

IF you have any additional information about - and/or photographs of - Ghost Towns/Deserted Villages in Great Britain, please e-mail me and I’d be happy to add them to this rather limited listing.

 

THE GHOSTS

 

BUCKENHAM TOFTS

 

 

East Anglia, Norfolk Co.

In the East Anglia region of Norfolk Co., 25 miles southwest of Norwich, the 30,000 acre STANFORD BATTLE AREA (Stanford Training Area – STANTA) was established by the British Army for training purposes on Jun 20, 1942.  By 1944, a half dozen villages (noted below) were evacuated and the citizens forced to relocate.  This gave the military villages for wartime training.  Because the area was low-lying, reasonably flat, rural, and the nearest land area to German-occupied, mainland Europe, it gave the troops a good training area for D-Day.  As this is still an active military area, public access is not allowed.  Any information about the STANTA villages is posted below for historical purposes only.

 

This village was one of the six abandoned when the STANTA was established in the early 1940s.  All six villages had churches and the four churches and cemeteries that remain are maintained in good condition by the British Ministry of Defence, while the interiors are still maintained by the Anglican Diocese of Norwich.  Unfortunately, despite the churches being in good condition, they are in a live-firing area so they remain unused.

 

St. Andrew’s Church and a cemetery were once located here. St. Andrew’s was abandoned sometime after the Reformation and the building had collapsed by the 1700s.  The rubble was cleared away around 1823. The cemetery was subsequently forgotten, but was rediscovered in the early 1900s. 

 

During the 1800s, the large rectory hall, known as Buckenham Hall, served as a mansion for the landholder for many years.  It was listed in an 1883 directory as having been abandoned in 1882.  It was torn down in 1946.  The village’s population remained small, and during its last century of life varied slightly.  In 1841, there were 77 people, which appears to have been the peak population.  In 1851, there were 11 houses and 54 people.  In 1881, that had decreased to 49, when the primary occupation was farming for wheat, barley and turnips.  In 1921, the population had increased to 71, and the nearest school was located at WEST TOFTS.  There was also an old water-powered mill here, which was rebuilt around 1840.  It was still in use in 1928.  It was shown on an 1892 map, where it was listed as a corn mill and was located near a Smithy.  In 1944 the village was abandoned as the land had been acquired earlier for use as a military training area.

DUNWICH

Norfolk Co.

“Along the coast at DUNWICH, all the old town is submerged and there are local tales of hearing church bells ringing when there is a heavy sea.  That may be a folk tale but there’s no doubt that there are a lot of medieval buildings down there.”

Brian Haley (SEE intro – above)

 

The entire coastal region is flat with easily flooded areas. Numerous towns have eroded into the sea, and this appears to have been one of them.

LANGFORD

East Anglia, Norfolk Co.

This was one of the towns abandoned for the development of the STANTA in the early 1940s.  It dates to at least 1085 and the medieval Parish Church of St. Andrew still stands solid in the heart of the now mostly-vanished, tiny, old village.  It is one of four remaining churches still standing in the STANTA area.  The others are at STANFORD, TOTTINGTON and WEST TOFTS.  This church was “modernized and expanded” in the 14th and 15th centuries and remodeled in 1883.  It served the community until abandonment in 1944.  The church is surrounded by a barbed wire fence while outside the fence the former village melts away to nothing.  Today, a few bullet holes mar the windows, but the old church still stands solid.  54 people lived here in 1881.

LYNFORD

Norfolk Co.

This was one of the towns listed by my friend Brian in the STANTA area.  However, other listings include LANGFORD (above), NOT Lynford.  It appears LYNFORD is actually just outside the west side of the Stanford Battle Area, and appears to be a loose-knit farming village with a maximum of 23 houses scattered about the former Lynford Hall.  That large house was built in 1717.  There was also a large brick mansion built in 1858-1859 and owned by S.L. and Lyne Stephens.  It was occupied by her for many years after her husband’s death.  In 1879, Mrs. Stephens built a Catholic Chapel out of flint, and that old structure is still standing.  The population of the village varied from 37 in 1801 to 115 in 1911. 

SHIPDEN

Norfolk Co.

“About 20 miles from here at Cromer there was another village, SHIPDEN. It’s now completely under the sea.”

Brian Haley (SEE intro – above)

STANFORD

East Anglia, Norfolk Co.

This former, tiny village is gone, only the flint All Saints Church and its associated cemetery remain.  The church is marked by an octagonal belfry-topped, round bell tower.  During the 1800s it was restored and featured seating for 90 congregants.  In 1841 some 184 people lived here.  In 1881, that declined slightly to 169, and by 1921 that had further decreased to 110.

 

The Cock Inn (sometimes called the Fowl Inn), a license public house (tavern?) was in operation here from at least 1813 through 1942 when it closed due to transfer of the village to the Stanford Battle Area.  A market was also located here from 1283 until the 1600s.  In 1884 a lake located near the church was used for the raising of trout.  A 70- student school was built in 1914.

STURSTON / STURTON

East Anglia, Norfolk Co.

This tiny village was one of the six abandoned when the Stanford Battle Area was established in the early 1940s.  It was once home to the Church of the Holy Cross, but in 1937 that church was in ruins.  Between GB’s first census 1801 and the 1931 enumeration, the population varied between 28 and 43, with the highest noted in 1891 when 78 folks were counted.

TOTTINGTON

East Anglia, Norfolk Co.

St. Andrew’s Church still stands in this once-time large village.  The cemetery also remains, numerous headstones sloughing off at different angles in the grass.  Most of the village’s buildings have melted back to the earth, leaving a few standing chimneys.  It dates to at least 1085 when it was listed in a book as Totintune.

 

In the censuses between 1801 and 1911, the village population remained fairly stable at around 200.  The greatest population reached was 370 in 1851.  In 1871, the largest number of houses were occupied – 63.  In 1883, an old directory lists the church, a school (built in 1849), post office, a wheelwright/blacksmith, a grocer/shoemaker and a fishmonger.  The Green Man Inn operated here in the mid to late 1800s.  The land was owned by Lord Walsingham.

WEST TOFTS

East Anglia, Norfolk Co.

St. Mary’s Church and cemetery still remain from this once large village.  Like some of the other churches, this flint edifice was extensively remodeled prior to 1854 and the massive building remains, its stained-glass windows and high-peaked roof filled with memories of days gone by.  In 1851 a school was added to the village, and in 1883 the school had about 50 students.  In 1925 it had 72.  The village was also home to a tavern which has the date 1583 on one of the door beams.  It was known as Sayers Beerhouse  1869-1892 and later was called Horse Shoes or Five Horse Shoes until 1942 when it closed. 

 

The population of the village remained fairly constant ranging from 182 in 1831 to 193 in 1861, then decreasing slightly to 135 in 1921.  It appears to have had 33 houses.

 

MORE INFORMATION

 

Historians estimate that there may be as many as 50,000 ghost towns scattered across the United States of America. Gary B. Speck Publications is in process of publishing unique state, regional, and county guides called

The Ghost Town Guru's Guide to the Ghost Towns of “STATE”

These original guides are designed for anybody interested in ghost towns. Whether you are a casual tourist looking for a new and different place to visit, or a hard-core ghost town researcher, these guides will be just right for you. With over 30 years of research behind them, they will be a welcome addition to any ghost towner's library.

Thank you, and we'll see you out on the Ghost Town Trail!

 

For more information on the ghost towns of GREAT BRITAIN, contact us at

Ghost Town USA.

 

E-mailers, PLEASE NOTE:

Due to the tremendous amount of viruses, worms and “spam,” out there, I no longer open or respond to e-mails with unsolicited attachments, OR messages on the subject lines with “Hey”, “Hi”, “Need help”, “Help Please”, “???”, or blank subject lines, etc.  If you do send E-mail asking for information, or sharing information, PLEASE indicate the appropriate location AND state name, or other topic on the “subject” line. 

THANK YOU!  :o)

IMPORTANT

These listings and historical vignettes of ghost towns and deserted villages in GREAT BRITAIN above are for informational purposes only, and should NOT be construed to grant permission to trespass, metal detect, relic or treasure hunt at any of the listed sites.

 

If the reader of this guide is a metal detector user and plans to use this guide to locate sites for metal detecting or relic hunting, it is that READER'S responsibility to search out the appropriate laws and regulations limiting or allowing the use of metal detectors in Great Britain.  IF it is legal, ALWAYS obtain written permission from the legal property owners.

 

Please be advised, that rules and regulations regarding the use of metal detectors in Great Britain differ greatly from those in the United States.

 

When you are exploring the ghost towns of GREAT BRITAIN, please abide by the Ghost Towner's Code of Ethics.

 

 

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FIRST POSTED:  February 06, 2001

LAST UPDATED: August 08, 2010

 

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