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exploring excalibur prefabs, south london

After way too much sitting in the studio this week, I was bouncing off the walls and needing to get out. Stuart had a bee in his bonnet to visit the Excalibur prefab estate in Catford, so we jumped on our bicycles and headed over there. He'd read a couple articles, one by Simon Jenkins in The Guardian and the other in Lewisham Life about the community, Britain's largest surviving 1940's prefab estate, which is under threat of demolition by the council. Prefabricated houses were a quick-fix housing solution after WW2, and were only intended to last ten years or so, but after 60 years, some residents have grown very attached to them.

As we were looping about the maze of streets and taking photos, we were lucky enough to get chatting with a guy who was taking down his Christmas decorations, Jim Blackender. Jim's become a neighbourhood champion to save Excalibur, and he let me video him talking about it. Here's the interview and a slide show of some of the photos I took today in this historic area:

Excalibur Prefabs YouTube link

You can find out about the community's campaign on Jim's website here.

Jim Blackender and his prefab

The first time I went inside a prefab was in the Imperial War Museum's 1940's House exhibition, and Channel 4 made a series about a family who lived there in artificially created 1940's conditions. When I took Stuart to the museum, he was amazed by how much of the decor he recognised that had stuck around into own childhood in the sixties. Here are some photos I found of the house's interior on YouTube, with a jolly Alma Cogan soundtrack:

1940s House YouTube link

Some more photos from today.

A noticeboard outside Jim's house

Edit: Just linked by The Londonist and writer Philip Reeve on his blog The Solitary Bee



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 9th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Cats write good signs
Thanks, Tom! Yes, it was a stroke of luck running into Jim! (He's just commented below!) And I love the cat sign, too. :)
Jan. 9th, 2011 01:39 pm (UTC)
Excalibur Prefab Estate
I think Sarah has done us proud and caught me on a relaxed day, a very professional job well done; the residents that want to stay need this type of support, people who are not afraid to name and shame.
Many thanks
Jim Blackender
Member of the Excalibur estates Worried Tenants Group
Jan. 9th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Excalibur Prefab Estate
Lovely to meet you, Jim! Thanks so much for letting me film you. I really hope the council listen to the recommendations from the tenants and historical societies. Your community's such an amazing piece of living history.
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Excalibur Prefab Estate
Hi Jim

good luck with your campaign,
my uncle and aunt lived in a prefab, and not sure if they still do.

just wondered by a slim chance that you knew them
they would be in their 80's, and their names are
Vic & Eileen Payn. they also had Eileens sister live with them.sorry dont know the road name either.
but its so long since i saw them. but had fond memories of visits to them, they even had their wedding reception there, god know how we all fitted in but we did and had dancing as well.

thanks for reading this
again good luck, think there should be more of these
. bet there are thousands out there would give their eye teeth for one.

all the best
Glenna Gillman 'ne Payn
if you would reply to this
email addy please. glenna@shelleyengineering.co.uk
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Excalibur Prefab Estate
Hi Glenna, thanks for leaving a comment! You can get in touch with Jim through his contact details on his website: http://jim-blackender.webs.com/?referer=AffiliateNetwork
(I'll e-mail it to you as well.)
Jan. 9th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
Very interesting!
Good luck to them - I hope they get enough general interest to help prevent the wholescale demolition.
Jan. 9th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Very interesting!
Thanks, Jenni, fingers crossed! x
Jan. 9th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, power to 'em. I love prefabs; think they should start building modern versions.
When I lived in Barnet, years ago, there was still a small prefab enclave, but I suppose it's long gone *Sigh*
Jan. 11th, 2011 09:19 am (UTC)
It's true, they're just the right size for maintaining, and don't have any accessibility issues like so many of these tall Victorian houses, where a staircase is the first thing you see when you walk in.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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