Tag Archives: heritage

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Scrapbook: UKAEA Harwell housing archive

While I continue to prevaricate re: the faff of re-formatting northdrive.wordpress.com in order to make this post the static front page (definitely on the cards), I will try to remember to add a ‘latest update’ highlight to this pre-blab, thus:

Latest update: 13th September, 2017: added three 1960s Wayland Crescent photos.

Chilton Estate

Map of Chilton prefab estate, prior to partial redevelopment

(Edit: I’m not 100% sure about the garages on Frome Road. I don’t remember these but have taken a punt on a likely location of garages here. Can anyone confirm or deny the presence (and location) of garages on Frome Road?)

Wayland Crescent

chiltonprefabswcavon_edited-1On Wayland Crescent, looking toward its junction with Avon Road, late 1970s. (Personal collection)

Wayland Crescent 1977editAt the top of the oval, looking up the crescent. Many thanks to Rev.Dr. Brian Meardon for his contribution of this picture from 1977.

WaylandCrescent_ aug1954.MHanksAugust 1954 (M. Hanks) When built, the prefabs had been sprayed with a wash of white paint. I am told this had been applied quite roughly, leaving lumps and drips. Note the swan-necked concrete masted streetlight. Construction aggregates forming such things as fenceposts, bollards and streetlights were given an architectural finish in which the individual stones forming the composite materials were clearly discernible. The estate was lit with mercury vapour lamps until the early 1980s, when these fitments were replaced by sodium types.

Wayland Crescent Anderson ShelterGarden on Wayland Crescent, 1956, featuring Anderson Shelter based shed. (M. Hanks).

 

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1WaylandCrescent19681 Wayland Crescent, late Spring 1967. Author attempts explanation of how electricity is essentially supernatural in origin. I know this as my infant finger is pointed toward the humming sub-station: a source of some fascination. The family mo’er, a 1966 Hillman Minx, appears half in shot, its AA badge displayed with pride. Beyond the hedge separating us from what was then the A34 can be seen the K6 telephone kiosk and, in a gap in the hedge, the northbound bus-shelter. I remember the AERE bus-shelters each being to this standard green-panelled and part-glazed design until the 1980s.

WaylandCrescent_parkingbay1972Early 1972. Taken from roughly the same spot as the previous picture, looking across the oval. On the other side of the green are the electricity sub-station, the postbox, another row of parking bays and an opposing line of prefabs; the two roadways converging just out of shot. Looks like the 1966 Hillman had begun to need welding.

Wayland Crescent 1967A recent find is this late 1960s photograph showing the line of prefabs on the south side of the grassed area.

prefabselfage4At the rear of 1 Wayland Crescent; probably 1968-9. Behind small-boy feature, the strips covering connections between sections of the building are seen clearly, as is the concrete base. The coalman delivered anthracite or whichever shade of bituminous coal was that year’s winner of the calorific cup, in sacks, to be tipped into the coal hopper.

Garden swing 1 Wayland Cresc 1969I’ve no idea who was the girl but she does look impressed, does she not. (Late 1960s)

Grace Brown 1 Wayland Crescent late 1960sGrace Brown at the kitchen door of 1 Wayland Crescent. (Late 1960s)

 

 

 

Wayland Crescent Garden 1971 editPlot sizes were generous, as seen in this photograph from 1971. Houses across the field are those of Severn Road. (Rev. Dr. B. Meardon)

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Kennet Road

I urge you to read Phil Hall’s reminiscences of life on Kennet Road in the early days of the Chilton prefab estate. It’s a great read: detailed and humorous. Phil paints a vivid picture of his post-war Berkshire childhood, and there is much that would, I’m sure, resonate with anyone who remembers life in an AERE prefab. I’d almost forgotten about the towels on the condensated windowsills, and who remembers the siren drills? You can find Phil’s piece here.

Avon Road

Avon Road West 1948 M Hanks

Looking west from the last prefab on Avon Road toward recently decommissioned runways. Thanks to Margaret Hanks for contributing this 1948 view. Severn Road is yet to be built; its junction would be behind the photographer. I am told that one of the hills here was nicknamed ‘Pylon Hill’ by local children.

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Frome Road

Local press article_prebab demolition_Chilton_smlThe prefab demolition programme was implemented from 1986. The last prefabs to be knocked down, several years later, were a small number on Frome Road, adjacent to the runway from which 6th Airborne division had taken off for Normandy on 6th June 1944 and close to the site of the experimental catapult pit. Harwell’s last AIROH prefab was demolished in March 1991. A temporary solution to the post-war housing shortage and said to be designed for a lifespan of ten years, these characterful homes lasted, in some cases, more than forty. (Click image to enlarge.) (M. Hanks)

Downside

ChiltonCP_1972Chilton County Primary School, 1972. Reception class was in the building nearest the fence, with year-groups progressing through the school toward a final year in the terrapin building out of shot to the left beyond the aluminium classroom block. This large prefabricated structure was built at the Bristol aircraft factory after the war. Upper windows were openable by means of very long poles.

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Aldfield Estate

This British Pathe newsreel from 1947 documents construction of the “atom village” at Harwell, contrasting this fangled high-tech realisation with the rustic charms of its Berkshire countryside setting.  There’s a brief shot of prefabs adjacent to a runway or taxiway at 2m 06s – I think this is the upper section of West Drive … and then several shots of Hillside and West Drive from  2m 34s. Can anyone identify any other locations shown? No.17 Hillside was home to Klaus Fuchs prior to his arrest and imprisonment, in 1950, as a Soviet spy. (Thanks to Moira in the comments for this information.)

Thames Road

Thames Road_Eileen GallagherA 1954 view from the back garden of 9 Thames Road. Thanks to Eileen Gallagher for contributing our first photo from the Aldfield Estate.

 

 

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Thames Road_2 Eileen GallagherAnother photo from Eileen’s collection. This one dates from 1955. The prefabs shown are those of West Drive and Hillside.

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North Drive

48 North Drive 1947At the garden gate of number 48; one of the four semi-detached houses on North Drive. This photograph from Margaret Hanks dates from 1947.

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A34NorthDrive1947Another 1947 shot from Margaret’s collection, taken at the southerly entrance to North Drive and looking north along what was then the A34. The large building seen between the second and third telegraph poles appears to be situated just beyond the junction with the Winnaway, approximately level with the northerly North Drive entrance. Can anyone identify it or guess its purpose? (The answer’s in the comments, facthunters.)

 Police Club

PoliceClubNDThe police club, on the northern oval of North Drive, was demolished in the early 1990s. This photograph dates from the winter of 1989/90.

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I am grateful to Margaret Hanks for contributing several photographs. This inspired me to search through my own family archival suitcase for more, and to suggest compiling a community-sourced photographic archive documenting how the estates have changed down the years. So… do you have any photographs from your time on the Chilton or Aldfield prefab estates? Or from North Drive or Severn Road before the sell-off? Let’s include the Abingdon and Wantage AERE housing as well. Anything you have, especially from pre-1990-ish, that you’re willing to publish.

UKAEA Harwell is a historic site, yet relatively undocumented when it comes to its social history: photographs and memories of those who have worked and lived here. With South Drive about to be destroyed and replaced by a new development on a new road layout, it would be good to have some photos of these fine houses and their landscaped setting in better days [mutter, grumble, “localism” my ‘arris etc. etc.]. Whilst absolutely no-one is interested in anyone else’s holiday snaps, then or now, the photographs giving greatest historical appeal may well be those clicked off on return in order to use up the roll of film, and hurry up cos Boots closes at 5. Those are the ones I want. Don’t worry if the quality’s not perfect, it’s the record that matters here. Leave a short comment somewhere on this blog and I’ll e-mail you for the goods.

 Reference

Nick Hance (2006), Harwell, The Enigma Revealed, Enhance Publishing, pp51-60

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Heritage to be Razed, Local Opposition Airbrushed

The following formed part of my objection to the planned demolition of South Drive. It was received by the council on 25th February:

“There is nowhere in the county quite like South Drive: a 1936 colonial-style Air Ministry development of mellow red brick, garden bays and sash windows,retaining its original road-layout and situated on chalk downland in an area of outstanding natural beauty. South Drive houses are among the oldest surviving parts of this former airbase.

No.8 South Drive, Sir John Cockroft s former residence, should be considered historically important in relation to the development of the site. The bomber station’s first CO decreed that the station should take the name of whichever parish his house was situated in: thus it was that RAF Harwell is what the UKAEA inherited in 1946, rather than RAF Chilton.” 

I was not the only North Drive objector to raise the soviet hammerheritage value of South Drive as a reason to not destroy it.  Yet here is the planning officer’s summary of our neighbourhood objections:

“3.3 Representations from local residents
– A total of 13 representations had been received at the time of writing this report, of which 11 object and 2 consider that there is not enough information submitted. The objections made are on the grounds of the following concerns:

•Loss of landscape setting and open character of the site
•Increased traffic generation and appropriate parking
provision
•Adverse impact on wildlife, particularly bats
•Impact of construction on routes to the site
•Loss of privacy and of existing residential amenity

So when,  in Section 6.20, Heritage Assets, we are told:
” The proposal has no heritage assets within the site or within the surrounding area. The submission has not identified any heritage asset that is identifiable in the local area that would be subject to any adverse impact from this proposal.

… it is as if no-one had any other view.