Sandra Sandland introduced herself, to the 40 or so people present, as a former prefab resident and introduced others: Julia Connor, born in a prefab. Janet, whose parents had been in Jersey during the war but who returned to Liverpool afterwards. And Nellie (Julia's mum) who had lived in Lodge Lane - her husband was in the Army - and who moved to a prefab in 1947.
The book 'Palaces for the People' puts the prefabs in their national context. The Second World War resulted in demolition, and a huge need for housing in cities like Liverpool. (It was estimated that 4 million new homes were needed in Great Britain in the late 1940s). Winston Churchill, and the Minister of Housing, started looking at the prefabs which were going up all over the world. On 25th March 1944 Winston Churchill announced the 1944 Temporary Housing Programme, a total of 200,000 prefabs (of 13 different types) were to be built all over Britain. In 1946 the job began.
In Liverpool, 3,500 prefabs were built on 40 different sites. The smallest was Larkhill (2), the largest was Belle Vale (1,159). They were constructed in a factory (but where was it? Sandra Sandland would like to know) on a production line. Four parts were put on the back of a lorry using a crane, and then transported to the site. It took less than 24 hours - about 30 to 40 man hours - to erect a prefab, which was supposed to last for 10 years. Those in Belle Vale were of a type called the 'B2 Aluminium Bungalow' - designed by aircraft engineers, and made out of melted down damaged aircraft. They had aluminium window frames, cupboards, etc. - but pine floors (covered with lino 'if you were lucky') and wooden doors.
Eddie Lansdowne then talked about the maps which the Prefab Project had produced. (He described himself as 'an imposter' who didn't live in the prefabs, but who has been attending the Project's Thursday meetings from the outset). Two ideas had been suggested early on: a map and a 'Prefab Who's Who'. The map was to be A3 size, with a transparent overlay showing the present day street pattern to the same scale. But this did not prove practicable, and two large 1:1,250 scale Ordnance Survey maps (1950/51 and 2004) were used instead.
Eddie referred to these maps, displayed on the wall, and described the prefab estate. The Belle Vale prefabs covered two areas: a long thin stretch on the north-east side of Childwall Valley Road, from the TA Centre to a point opposite Belle Vale Road, and an area on the other side of Childwall Valley Road, between Hedgefield Road and Belle Vale Road. The grid squares on the old and new maps enable people to find out exactly where their prefab was.
Eddie explained that maps are a very useful way of 'keeping history alive'. For example he remembered that there was an area between Adstone Road and Lee Park Avenue - paved, with a flagpole, and nicknamed the 'sunken garden' - not built on when the Lee Park Estate was developed. The old map reveals that there was originally a huge pond there. (New houses have recently been built on it, however!).
The Who's Who list, which is another outcome of the Project, records who lived in each prefab, when they lived there, for how long, when they moved out and where to.
Continued . . .