Arne is a small village, with a population of fewer than 2000 residents located 4 miles east of Wareham. The village itself is located on the Arne Peninsula which protrudes out into Poole Harbour which has a long and turbulent history.
Arne has its share of history, including evidence of prehistoric human activity. Throughout the years, 19 barrows and what remains of 4 linear dykes have been found in Arne. The most popular, and the historically significant barrow is the King’s Barrow which is dated back to the early Bronze age. Although the Dykes found are not dated, their structures suggest that they are of Romano-British origins. This area was extremely busy during the Roman period as the salt industry was booming especially on the shore of Poole Harbour.
As you stroll along the old streets you will notice simple, yet striking, old buildings dating back to the 1200s such as the Parish Church. The extremely simplistic church, consisting only of a single-cell chancel and nave has been restored twice, first in the 19th Century and then in 1952, however, the church stands practically identical to how it was back when it was built. Until 1539, Arne village was owned by Shaftesbury Abbey, a very wealthy nunnery. The population of this village was always rather small, in fact after a small school was built and opened in 1832, the always shrinking population of the village forced the school to close its doors in 1922.
World War I & II History
Arne was also important during the first and second world wars. During World War 1, an area very close to the village was chosen as the site for the Royal Navy Cordite Factory, which was a manufacturer of explosives. The area was chosen specifically because of the low population density and isolated location. Unfortunately, this site became a clear target for German bombings in World Word 2. With the main flight pathway to Holton Heath passing right over the small village of Arne, the government of the time decided to create several starfish decoy sites in the village.
These were heavily guarded sites containing a network of tar barrels and kerosene filled pipes. These were then ignited when needed to make the enemy believe the factory itself was on fire. This did occur on the night of 3rd June 1942. The decoy was ignited as an aircraft bombed the site heavily. The fire that was caused burned for 6 weeks, however, the decoy operation was successful as the factory was left untouched. The same cannot be said for Arne. The small village was devastated, with over 200 bombs having been dropped on the Arne Peninsula.
The village was left practically uninhabitable and the few remaining residents were ordered to leave their homes by 10th August. Arne was left derelict till the late 1950s. It is now under the watchful eye of the RSPB which also maintains the Arne Reserve which is close by. Spending the day strolling around this quaint village will feel as though you’ve taken a step back in time and visiting the Arne Nature reserve is every nature lover’s ideal day out!