My Memories: Mum & Dad's Prefab.
"It was so noisy behind the Welwyn Foundry!"
By George Boston
My parents came to Welwyn Garden City in April or May of 1940, when Dad took another job for the Welwyn Garden City Urban District Council. He sent my mum up by train from Finsbury in London, and he drove their Ford Prefect all the way to the Garden City on gravel roads, which were all pre-motorway. Driving tests were suspended in 1940, so my mum didn’t get time to learn to drive until after the war. My dad had got them a prefab behind the Welwyn Foundry on the old Bessemer Road, and my mother absolutely hated it! It was built by Morrisons Engineering Ltd, who was into aircrafts but turned their attention to housing. In later years, Mum reminisced about the prefabs stating they were okay, but the fibreglass walls were so flimsy that the foundry machines could be heard clearly. Dad, after finishing his work, loved sitting down on the sofa and reading his newspaper from The Stores. What he didn’t like is the noise – in fact it irritated him so much that once he broke the foundry fence and they couldn’t find out it was him so he didn’t pay one penny.
Behind Welwyn Foundry was a little road/dirt track which housed about 150 prefabricated homes, which were demolished in early 1956 after the extension of Bessemer Road. It was quite noisy from the foundry machines, but it had to do for the time being! They had a living room, three good sized bedrooms, a kitchen with a sink and stove and a bathroom with a built-in bath and toilet. It was just like a normal built and completed house, except it was made of fibreglass and aluminium instead of brick. Their neighbour, Mr & Mrs James, occupied a three bedroom prefab and they had two secondary school aged kids and were quite rude and nasty. Nobody liked them. Our other neighbour, Mrs Renwin, was the tenant’s sublet and her husband was at war. She had a son, Harold, who proved a nuisance to my parents when they attempted to relax on weekends. Prefabs were meant to be built as temporary accommodation but some stayed in prefabs for some 20 years, and were built where available if it houses more persons. Anything helped then.
Mum was working various jobs after arriving in the Garden City, often becoming involved in work parties. Dad worked very hard for the council – he built our house I grew up in! Every Saturday night they went to the Woodman (The Chieftain now) for a pint each, and Mum played Bridge with her clang. Mum often won about 6 or 7 shillings every week, she was brilliant at Bridge! Another one of his friends robbed about £30 from the Garden City Social Club and he gave £10 to Dad and another friend. Soon after the gent vanished, never to be seen again. They had a fulfilling life, even though they lived in little cabin-like prefabs.