Morning view over the Debden Estate.
Strangely I am not often asked about the houses on the Debden Estate. Many people take them for granted, and they are often called prefabs, double-decker prefabs or just concrete houses.
The first houses in Debden to appear in what is now the Debden Estate were probably earlier than we are aware, but the Victoria County History (1956) which is accessible online (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=15593) tells us that in the 11th Century, there were 8 estates in the Loughton area, the largest being Debden and Alderton and if you look at the British History site you will find out lots of interesting facts about the history of the Loughton area.
The first houses to go up on the estate were the prefabs in Oakwood Hill, and around the same time work started on the 'main' estate.
The first to appear on the main estate were BISF and Orlit houses. They were quick to manufacture, although interestingly, they were not necessarily cheaper to erect than traditional houses.
The benefits of the early houses were that they could be erected by unskilled or semi-skilled labour in a matter of days and they used comparatively little wood. Both labour and wood were in scarce supply as a result of the war. But once war was over, the factories that had previously manufactured munitions and planes were quickly converted into plants able to produce new homes.
By 1952, plans were being submitted to the local council for traditionally built houses. Bricks, wood and labour had become far easier to obtain, and although the London County Council built many of the houses, there were also self-builds and speculative builders who built a few houses, here and there.
I will expand on this page in due course, and I will be taking a class in May about the Debden Estate. More details can be found in the six-week class programme on www.loughtonfestival.org
The most common houses on the estate are: The Orlit, BISF, Wimpy No fines, Laing Ease-Form, The Cornish Unit, and the prefabs were Arcon V.
Because of the extensive re-cladding work carried out in the 1980s, many houses have been re bricked and windows have been replaced and that has made identifying the kinds of houses particularly difficult. BISF houses were not re clad and Cornish houses are obvious from their mansard roof, but if you live in any other kind of early house and know what kind it is, why not drop me a line and let me know.
As always, if you have any photos of the houses, from the 1940s and 1950s, why not send me a copy and I may use it on this site.