DERBYSHIRE: Farewell to post war prefabs

Peter and Beryl Barraclough outside their prefab home in Killamarsh
Peter and Beryl Barraclough outside their prefab home in Killamarsh
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“I watched them being built and now I’ll watch them be knocked down,” said Beryl Barraclough, 80, who lives in one of the post-war prefabs set to be demolished to make way for new homes.

As a teenager in 1946 Beryl would run home from school to chat to the lads who were building the homes in Killamarsh.

She said: “As a 13-year-old I never thought I’d finish up living in one.

“The lads who were building them were prisoners of war and we used to torment them to bits.

“They were very nice with us. It was all very exciting at the time and quite a big deal for the area.”

Beryl, who then lived on Sheffield Road, can still see her old house from the back garden of the bungalow she shares with husband Peter, 80.

But the couple’s home along with 93 others in Killamarsh and Eckington is set to be demolished as part of £10.5m scheme to build 150 new properties for rent.

The prefabricated bungalows – known as ‘Tarrans’ – were built in the most heavily bombed towns in the UK to make up a shortfall in housing stock after the Second World War.

They had a planned life of up to ten years but 60 years later families have been raised in the homes and some people have lived in the prefabs all their life.

And while it is the end of an era for the tenants most are looking forward to moving into new, modern homes as the bungalows are showing their ages.

The properties are classed as ‘defective’ and have serious long term structural problems. Tenants also find them hard and expensive to heat.

Former miner Peter said: “They came to insulate the walls and when they put the drill in it went in about four inches then came out the other side of the wall.

“The walls are just compressed cardboard, it was the material that was available at the time.

“I think they have lasted marvellously though considering how they were built.”

The couple, who have been married 61 years and have four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild, moved into the bungalow eight years ago and said the best thing about their home was the close-knit community. “We’ve been very happy here,” said Beryl.

Doris Grant moved into her prefab, on Pitt Lane, Eckington 35 years ago.

Doris and her husband John, who passed away last year, also had many happy times in their home.

But Doris, 85, said she was looking forward to moving.

She added: “It will be nice to be in a house that’s a bit warmer. It’s been an awful problem trying to keep it warm.

“Most people are looking forward to the move but probably one or two are not bothered about the upset and at 85 it will be a big thing to be moving again.”

Doris said several neighbours had lived in their bungalows for many years, including one couple who brought up their four sons in their two-bedroom home.

Plans have been submitted by Rykneld Homes to develop the two sites.

If approved, work is set to start in June or July with some residents being rehoused by December.

The project will be done in phases with new properties being built around the old Tarrans and all tenants are set to be rehomed by December 2014.

The residents’ stories have also captured the imagination of national photographer and film-maker Elisabeth Blanchet who is documenting the project.

Elisabeth who has been involved in many high profile projects, including My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, took photographs of some of the tenants as part of her project, looking at the hundreds of prefabs still in use around the country.

Elisabeth said: “I never lived in a prefab but, somehow, they are very evocative to me.”

Elisabeth grew up in Normandy with her grandparents, who lived in a prefab after the Second World War.

She added: “I only found out about the prefab story about nine years ago when I started recording my grandmother’s war memories.”

“But it’s certainly not the close relationship I had with my grandparents which led me to wander in prefabs’ estates in the UK. I was attracted by the unconformity of the houses and also by the fact that there were still plenty of them, inhabited and loved all over the country.”

Elisabeth’s exhibition ‘Prefabs: Palaces For The People’ will take place at Photofusion gallery in Brixton in June but she hopes to tour to Chesterfield in the future.

She is also looking for more photos and inviting people to share their old images or documents by going to www.facebook.com/PalacesForThePeoplex.