Our February Talk - Reviewed by Mary Champion

On Sunday 4th February 2007, in the Gateacre Chapel Hall, we had a fascinating talk by Sandra Sandland about the Belle Vale Prefabs. Sandra was accompanied by a group of people who had lived in them too.
During the Blitz thousands of homes all over Britain were destroyed, and building new homes was an urgent priority. Four million homes were needed. On 26th March 1944 Winston Churchill announced that a Temporary Housing Programme was to be set up and that 160,000 prefabricated houses would be built all over the U.K. The programme began in Liverpool in 1946 with 3,500 units. The smallest was 2 houses in Lark Hill and the biggest was Belle Vale.

The Belle Vale houses were designed by aircraft engineers, and made up of four parts - bolted together on a brick base. They were made of aluminium, often constructed from aircraft shot down. They arrived from the factory on a lorry and it took about 30 to 40 man hours to erect each one. All the fittings and paint finishes were added prior to delivery.

1,159 prefabs were built on open farmland on each side of Childwall Valley Road in Belle Vale. Each one had two bedrooms, a living room, a fitted kitchen and bathroom, a fridge, cooker, ducted heating and indoor loo, plus a garden. Most luxurious compared with some of the homes destroyed.

The prefabs were intended to last for 10 years - but most of those at Belle Vale were up until 1969! A real community spirit grew up on the estate and eventually, when the time came to leave and move to other houses, people were broken-hearted. The estate was not houses in isolation. There were schools and churches and plenty of activities to lead a happy life, some specially built and some already in the area.

The book 'Prefab Days: A Community Remembers' can be bought at Belle Vale Post Office, 121 Belle Vale Road, Liverpool L25 at £9.99. A good read, and lots of pictures.

Visit the Belle Vale Prefab Project website to view their amazing Photographic Albums of prefab scenes. And visit our own Gateacre History pages for a fuller account of Sandra's talk.

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