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Harold Hill Prefabs

The Prefabs were erected as temporary homes in 1947/8 and were finally all demolished twenty years later. Alltogether 605 were erected on about 78 acres of open land. They were replaced with more numerous and more crowded homes built with direct labour by the Greater London Council. That new section of the Harold Hill Estate is often referred to as the "flowers estate". Below an aerial image and a street map both from the 1950s.

The aerial image below was taken in 1951 during the construction of the main Harold Hill Estate.

The street map below with all the minor roads named, again from the early 50s.

Below a memoir from a former denizen of the Harold Hill prefabs now living in Australia. Thanks to Bill Hurley for sharing it with us.

The Hurley family, my dad, mum, me aged seven and younger brother & sister moved out of the East End ( Stepney ) about 1953 as so many East Enders did. Our first home was up behind the Pompadours pub on Hilldene Ave it was a small flat ( Thornbury House ) which is still there but it was modern compared to Dibden House, Stepney but saying that the memories of that time in the East End as a kid were happy playing/swimming in the Regents canal even bombed out houses were still there in the early fifties but Harold Hill was a whole new world everything new, bright and spacious. One vivid memory of that time was that my dad worked at Fords Dagenham, he cycled from Bridgewater Close to Fords every working day & back ten miles each way on a bike most people today wouldn't be able to pick up because it was so heavy. When he was on night shift he'd leave at 7.30 for a 10 o'clock shift, I would ride on the crossbar to the Pompadours to get a bottle of Guinness & a packet of Senior Service cigs for my mum & walk back sweating. I didn't drop the bottle, another good thing about the Pompadours is that it was a great site for "penny for the guy" on bonfire night.

After about a year we moved to Holly Rd in the prefab estate. Holly Rd ran between Myrtle & Briar Roads we were right up the Myrtle Rd end, no 35. I suppose the biggest highlight was having our own garden we were lucky because we had a mature cherry tree in the garden as well as many gooseberry bushes. I don't know who planted them but we were grateful. We made many good chums there Billy & Geoff Rain, Roy Reeves come to mind. We were all east end kids so we were no angels, getting up to all sorts of mischief. I remember one instance going into the Briar Rd paper shop with my chums, while they occupied the owner I filled my pockets with Mars bars but was nabbed & locked in the backroom while they did a runner. The police were called but I managed to get out of a back window and run for home, only problem was that was the same shop my dad sent me to buy his evening paper every day so I had to go to the next nearest shops at Camborne Ave for weeks my dad could never understand what would normally take 15 mins always took nearly an hour, so I got my just desserts. Not far from us was the Chatteris Ave adventure park but there was a short cut through a neighbour's garden, he was a grumpy old man, we kids named him Gabby Hayes. I supose he always knew when we were going to try and get through as he would fling his door open as we were halfway through and hurl his walking stick at us, needless to say he was the first to get a penny banger through his letterbox on bonfire night.

Camborne shops had another bad memory for me at the end of the shops was a stairway to the flats above. As kids always looking for a bit of fun we used to run up the stairs and slide down the six inches wide hand rail, trouble was in my enthusiasm I went straight over the top which involved an ambulance & police car escort to Harold Wood Hospital two broken arms & smashed front teeth. I was probably the youngest kid in England with dentures. A couple of weeks later I was involved in another trip in an Ambulance. Whilst running a bath in the prefab because I had two broken arms I slipped and fell into scolding hot water. I remember the ambulance man carrying me out wth all the street there wondering what was happening with an ambulance & police car. I remember when getting to the hospital the sister saying to me "not you again" with my two broken arms in plaster of paris sticking out of the red blanket. A good memory was Christmas time a few of us would head down Straight Rd over Gallows corner to Gidea Park where we thought the rich people lived for carol singing. All we knew was the first few words of a few carols which was good because normally as soon as we started singing the front door would open & a sixpence, or a shilling if we were lucky, was thrust into our hand to get rid of us but on a good night we had ten bob or more to share among us. Hilldene shops was also a good place to hang out my mum worked at the Co-op there on the cigarette counter, a few years later she told me she worked there with Trevor Brooking's mum. A couple of doors up from the Co-op was an electrical shop, tvs, washing machines, etc. I remember when they had their grand opening. Mike & Bernie Winters were the celebrity guests the crowds were huge, this would have been 57/58. Sundays were always looked forward to mum & dad would invariably go for a drive in our Ford Consul to a country pub at lunchtime usually the Bear at Noak Hill. When I think about it was pitifully cruel to keep that huge bear in such a small cage but in those days we didn't know any better,