The Forever Imber Rally

Fifty years ago today, on 22nd January 1961, a mass trespass took place in a bid to get the village of Imber returned to villagers. It had been taken over in 1943 as an emergency war measure, but villagers always understood that their homes would be returned to them when the emergency was over. In 1961, one man, Austin Underwood from Amesbury, announced he’d walk from Gore Cross (which was once in the parish of Market Lavington) to Imber and he invited others to make the trek with him. In the event, some 2000 people turned up and they used 700 cars to get there. It was at least ten times the size that Austin had anticipated.

Amongst the walkers was Peter Francis, Market Lavington’s photographer, who decided on this occasion to produce a movie of the event. We have this movie – converted from film to video and then on to DVD at Market Lavington Museum.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Forever Imber rally, Austin’s daughter, Ruth, has organised an event taking place at West Lavington Village Hall from 9.00 am onwards today. There’ll be a chance to learn about Imber from expert Rex Sawyer. There’ll be music and audiovisual presentations, which will include ‘our’ film. There’ll be activities for all of the family so it’s an event well worth getting to.

Below we show some stills from the Peter Francis film.

The 'Forever Imber' rally set off from Gore Cross. Note the AA phone box which have largely vanished from the British scene.

More than 700 1961 period cars carried people to the rally

Imber Village Street as people on the rally arrive

Some of the 2000 people arrive in Imber on 22nd January 1961

It could be said that the rally failed, for Imber never was returned to former residents. However, the public enquiry which followed the rally did result in the occasional opening of the road through the village and the securing of St Giles Church. This was really a substantial victory which made the need for mass trespass a thing of the past.

The church has recently had considerable renovation and a peel of bells has been installed. People can visit the graves of ancestors and, from time to time, it will be possible to hear the bells ring out at Little Imber on the down, seven miles from any town.

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One Response to “The Forever Imber Rally”

  1. Film from Market Lavington on the BBC « Market Lavington Museum Says:

    […] can see on the TV this evening. You can read more about the rally and see stills from the film by clicking here. 51.286513 -1.980577 Rate this: Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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