During the second world war, the village was taken over by the British Army when it was incorporated into the Stanford battle area. The military ranges were needed to prepare Allied infantry for Operation Overlord, (the Battle of Normandy in 1944). Though some villagers were said to be happy to give up their homes to help the British War effort, the majority were less than enthusiastic with a number of heated village meetings and some refusing to leave the area.
However, at the close of World War II, the former villagers were never allowed to return to their homes by the war office.
Most of the inhabitants were not landowners, and rented the houses and farmed the land belonging to the Walsingham estates. Though they had been promised that they could return to their homes after the war, the government later reneged on the promise and bought the land, threatening Walsingham with a compulsory purchase order. As the majority of the inhabitants were not landowners, they received very little in compensation, were put into council housing and many lost their livelihoods. They continued to fight for many years to return to their homes and farmland but the beginnings of the cold war and the need for dedicated training areas removed all chances of a return.
The church of St Andrew is situated at the northern end of the village. Today the roof of the church is clad in blast-proof sheeting which was installed to protect the structure of the church. The original pantiles are stored inside the church ready to be restored if the village is given back to the public. The outside of the church is surrounded by wire fencing to protect the church from the military maneuvers.
In October 2009 a World War II veteran, who had been born in the village, was buried in St Andrew’s churchyard after permission for the internment was given by the Ministry of Defence. It was the first burial in the graveyard for more than 50 years; the church was built in the 14th century.
Explore: An old explore now, just getting round to putting this on
This was quite a walk from where we parked. We walked down the paths towards the church. There was some firing practice going off in the distance to our far right.. we met many people in vehicles.. they didn’t mind us been in there and didn’t stop to say anything.