Prefabs: Pride and Prejudice

“Whatever you do, don’t play with those Pilgrim Way kids”

When I first wrote about growing up on a post-war prefab estate, I  had no idea that local people living nearby might have formed negative attitudes toward such places and their residents, deserved or otherwise. As a prefab boy, I was not aware that I and other prefab kids may have been seen as social pariahs by middle class home-owners. But following the publication of my 2015 memoir Prefab Days I was intrigued by a comment from a former schoolmate, who quoted a woman living in a “proper house” not far away, doling out essential advice to one of his friends: “Whatever you do, don’t play with those Pilgrim Way kids”.

I did do some superficial research on the possibility of anti-prefab prejudice, but I could not find anything substantial then, but yesterday my son Ben sent me a link to a 1975 BBC Nationwide report in which a typically patronising BBC-accented reporter slums it in the ghetto, elswhere in London. If you can swallow the the trivialising journalistic conceit, typical of Nationwide, he fakes amazement when he finds that residents, faced with redevelopment “actually liked living here”, and, thirty years on, gets a cockney earful or two about ignorant middle class pedlars of anti-prefab bigotry:

(Anyone recognise the reporter? They don’t make reportage like that any more…………..)

Prefab related posts

Thanks Ben. Comments welcome, as ever………


13 thoughts on “Prefabs: Pride and Prejudice

  1. Hi Peter,
    As a student at the LCP at the Elephant & Castle in the 70s there was a short road of prefabs a hundred yards or so from the college (close to the hospital -opposite the famous Eagle pub). The Council was looking to pull them down and redevelop. Most of the householders had been there since they were built and hated the idea of being rehoused in the massive high density low-rise estates they saw being put up in the borough. History prover them right!

  2. Hi Dave,
    My book is set in a fictitional London suburb, not unlike Pilgrims Way NW9. The Nationwide archive video was the final catalyst which got me started writing after years of dithering. I understand there are some post-war prefabs still occupied in Grainsby Close, Boultham Park.

    • I expect you’ve long since done this, but Google maps ‘virtual stroll’ fully illustrates the Gainsby Close houses. It looks like a loved site. Unbeknownst to me, I often walk past it. Next time, I’ll take the opportunity to stroll through.

      Best wishes, Dave K


      • Yes, I checked it out just before making the comment, in case they had knocked them down since I last looked. I agree it’s a sight for sore eyes as my mum would have said. Someone should run a story – e.g. Lincolnite? Or maybe the residents should be left in peace. Stay safe!

  3. Thank you Peter, I really enjoyed your original post about prefabs and Pilgrims Way. I lived there, at no 14, with my family from the early 50’s until about 1964/65. Lots of fond memories. You mention prejudice, the first I came across was from an American guy I had a date with, his words when he took me home were…..’Gee I didn’t know you lived in a rabbit hutch!’. Needless to say we didn’t go out on a second date. My Dad loved living there but my Mum hated what she felt was the stigma, so she too had possibly encountered some prejudice.

  4. Hi Chrissie. So glad you liked my post. That’s a great anecdote. I don’t suppose we will ever know how much prejudice there was, but everyone I have come across who was brought up in a prefab knows the truth. My mum was keen to move on, but that wasn’t because of the prefab, but because of a nasty neighbour, and that can happen anywhere. Lovely to hear from you!

    • Hi Peter, thanks for forwarding these ‘prefab sprouts’. Next time I’m walking through the estate near me, I’ll take a few pics. Generally, these homes display pride-on-a-budget, which reminds me of the Elephant & Castle.

  5. Dear all, I to lived at Pilgrims way number 27 ,but I must say I never felt anything of what’s been said, I lived there1948 ,1965 and loved it ,my
    pearents were very gratful to have moved there after the war. A glorious time in my life Dave Robson

    • Me too Dave. The quote is a memory passed on to me only recently, by a school friend. He attributed the comment to his aunt, who lived near Church Lane. I have searched for other evidence of such prejudice, but with no success, but it does make some kind of sense. Possibly an example of a wider prejudice against council housing estates in general. Thanks for your comment – all grist to the Pilgrims Way mill.

  6. I was always slightly affected by the attitude of some of our rich neighbours who lived on the large houses on Salmon Street, the Paddocks and Barn Hill. My brother Phil and I tried to join Barn Hill Lawn Tennis Club just behind Pilgrims Way on Barn Hill and at first there was certainly some resistance from the club, however once we started winning some matches and bringing friends from school there we were made very welcome.

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