The Excalibur Estate, London
After the Second World War, 150,000 prefabricated houses (prefabs) were built across Britain. Created to host homeless families with young children, these “palaces for the people” as they were called were synonymous not only with comfort and luxury but also with freedom. The Excalibur Estate in Catford south-east London is still one of the largest surviving estates.
The 187 prefabs here were erected in 1946-47, by German and Italian prisoners of war. They were interim housing, a solution to the housing stock shortage after the end of the 2nd World War. They were expected to last between 10 and 15 years but are still standing after 60.
Over the years, Lewisham Council has tried to develop the site many times. In a recent review it found that the housing stock did not meet Decent Homes Standard and the cost for refurbishment would be £8.4 million. In April 2008 there will be a ballot to decide on whether or not stock transfer will go ahead. Residents have been told by the council that if they vote yes, the stock will be transferred to London & Quadrant, and the estate will be demolished. If they vote no, the estate will be put forward for a regeneration scheme, Lewisham Council will select a housing association of its choice, and the estate will be demolished. Either way the future looks bleak.
One of the tenants, Jim Blackender has been vocal in the campaign to save the estate. He writes:
As tenants we are trying to highlight the difficulties we are having trying to save our historic estate from the bulldozers
The Decent Homes Standard has given councils the golden opportunity to write off vast amounts of housing stock as non decent and transfer their stocks to housing associations who build in its place high density housing estates.
The Excalibur Prefab Estate is the largest of its kind now left in Europe. Europe values its war time history, we on the estate think it’s time we did too.