A view through the locked gates of Imber Court in Imber (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

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Nearly 80 years ago, residents living in a village called Imber in rural Wiltshire were forced to leave their homes.

The villagers were asked to leave in order to allow the military to use the site as training for combat during World War 2

Eviction was also necessary because the village was in very close proximity to shell impact areas, and it would have become inhospitable for residents.

Salisbury Plain, where Imber is located, remains a large military base to this day and there are several abandoned villages like Imber in the region.

Since its occupation, the area has remained under the control of the Ministry of Defence and despite the residents' best efforts, no one has ever been allowed to return to their homes.

The village is frozen as it was left, and is quickly becoming a fascinating portal back in time for those that are interested in exploring it.

Why did residents never return to Imber?

Many of the old houses still stand in Imber
(Image: PA)

At the time of evacuation, the Government told villagers that they would be able to return to their homes after six months.

Most of the 152 villagers left the area without putting up a fight, but one family was forcibly removed from their farm by the army.

Plans to return were scrapped as Imber quickly became the permanent property of the Ministry of Defence.

Since World War 2, the site has been used to prepare troops for conflict in urban areas – including The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

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More than 2,000 people decided to protest in 1961, demanding the Government return the land to the villagers, but a public inquiry found it should remain with the military.

Imber has suffered damage due to shells and explosions, but many of the structures remain standing to this day. There are also some interesting military buildings that were built for training during the 60s.

What is the village like now?

St. Giles Church in Imber is the only intact building in the village
(Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

The Grade I church is still maintained and hosts an annual church service on the the Saturday closest to 1 September every year. From 2009 to 2018, the church has also hosted a Carol service.

The village itself is open to visitors every now and then – usually around Bank Holidays and Christmas.

Although it is only a small site, there is plenty to see. Original village homes are still dotted about – some in disrepair but others appear sturdy – and the overgrown graveyard is interesting to explore.

You can still see the grave of Albert Nash, who was the village blacksmith for over 40 years and was brought back to Imber for burial soon after leaving the village. It was rumoured he'd died of a broken heart after being forced to leave his home.

Opening days for the visit vary. Find out when the village will next be open here.