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The End is Close for Palaces for the People

Posted: 20/10/2012 14:09

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Time is running out for Europe's largest prefab estate. Lewisham Council, London, is planning to demolish all but six of the 187 prefab bungalows that make up the Excalibur Estate in Catford - and replace them with 371 modern homes.

This is unique 12-acre complex of prefabricated buildings. Built in 1945 and 1946 by German and Italian prisoners of war, the Excalibur Estate was supposed to be a temporary solution to the damage caused by the Luftwaffe's bombs.

Prefabs were built for returning soldiers and their families and provided what was, for those times, high levels of luxury. Designed by the Ministry of Works, they had two bedrooms, a fitted kitchen with a fridge and cooker, running hot water and an indoor toilet. They became known as Palaces for the People.

These one-storey bungalows were meant to last just 10 years. However, the Excalibur Estate is still standing and there is a strong sense of community here.

The council has done little work to the prefabs over the years and any improvements have been made by the tenants.

This unique slice of 20th-century social history is about to disappear. The process of 'decanting' has now begun, which means people have been asked to move out of the prefabs by the council. Sadly, the empty houses have become dumping grounds and are quickly falling into disrepair, which has dampened the mood on the estate.

Together with photographer, Elisabeth Blanchet, we are recording the memories of people who have lived in these prefabs since the end of the war.

Do you know anyone who has lived in a prefab? Get in touch to share your stories and memories.

See Elisabeth's photographs here.

Learn more about the project here.

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