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Ferry Lane Prefabs

Ferry Lane Prefabs

Built in the late 1940s on Balk Lane (just off Ferry Lane), the prefabs design was a triumph of space planning. They were built to overcome a housing shortage in the village after the War. Many of the older houses in Stanley at the time were in a poor state and would have to be demolished over the next few years. The prefabs had two bedrooms; a living room; hallway; fitted kitchen, with hot and cold running water, cooker (gas or electric) and built-in refrigerator; and a fitted bathroom with a heated towel rail. 

The coal fire in the living room had a back boiler which heated water for the bathroom and kitchen and also provided ducted warm air to the bedrooms. The kitchen was planned to make the most efficient use of the space available. It included a cooker, boiler and a fridge - a luxury for most people at that time. The prefab also had two bedrooms; the smaller, at the front of the house, generally being used by the children. Storage was provided by built-in wardrobes.

Production started in 1946 and by 1949 more than 156,600 had been built. Although intended as a temporary solution to the housing shortage immediately after the war, the prefabs on Ferry Lane were in use up to the late 1970s. The legacy of the war years was to change the way houses were designed and built for decades to come. Many more new houses were built by local authorities throughout the 1950s, changing Stanley from mainly farmland to large housing estates.

The prefab houses on Ferry Lane were actually the 'crème de la crème' of their type, the AIROH house (Aircraft Industries Research Organization on Housing) was a 675 square feet (62.7 m2), ten tonne all aluminium bungalow assembled from four sections, each to be delivered to the site on a lorry, fully furnished right down to the curtains. The proposed rate of production of complete houses was to be an incredible one every twelve minutes. This was possible because the completely equipped and furnished AIROH could be assembled from only 2,000 components, while the aircraft it would replace on the production line required 20,000".

When the prefabs were arriving in Ferry Lane on lorries, each house would have been in 4 sections, and then craned off and lowered onto the foundations, which were already plumbed up for water and electricity. This was ground breaking technology for its day, incredibly advanced in the world of house building, especially for a village like Stanley.

22 Balk Crescent

By Grenville Horner

This was the home where I was born and spent my very happy childhood, from 1951 until around 1965, when we moved to Limepit Lane. My parents, Marjorie and Henry Horner were the first tenants of a brand new prefab constructed just after the war, in a development at the bottom of Ferry Lane, built in the middle of fields, as a small, new community providing 'temporary housing' for young families. My sister Julie was born four years before me, in 1947, and it must have been just after this when my parents moved in, probably in 1948. 


My mum & dad with me in the garden at 22 Balk Crescent. 1952. In the background, the terraced street with the chimneys is what we used to call "Chuggly Bunk" which I remember as being a dark and sinister row of housing with an inner courtyard which always had dogs roaming around. Straight out of Charles Dickens. We had to walk past this to reach Ferry Lane, as the bus stop was positioned by the brick archway into the courtyard entrance. I often used to run past it.

Living next door to us at no 20 was Mr & Mrs Sheard, whose son Brian was one of the very few people to own a car, a new Ford Anglia, which we thought was very cool. He'd occasionally take us for a trip round the crescent in it, which was hugely exciting. Then at no 18 was Mr & Mrs Ward, and at no 16, Andrea Burkill, who was a friend of my sisters. Her parents owned a very yappy Pekingese dog, which was exactly like Pong-Ping in the Rupert Bear stories. Mr Wade, a Stanley Councillor, lived a few doors down on the other side. Every afternoon during the summer, Lumbs Ice Cream van would come into the crescent playing it's tune,and would always attract a queue of children, clutching their pennies, which was the price of a small cornet. The ice cream was delicious.


My mum, me and her brother, Geoffrey Wood, on the swing at 22 Balk Crescent. 1952. Our prefab is in the background, behind the shed, with Mr & Mrs Sheards to the left. Geoffrey emigrated to Australia soon after this photo, on the £10 ticket.

The prefabs were incredibly advanced for their time. Almost space age, and manufactured by the then redundant aircraft factories after the war. Assembled very quickly, with pressed metal kitchens and windows they would now be collectors items. Our prefab was on a huge plot, and we grew most of our own vegetables, as well as gooseberries, blackberries, strawberries and cherries. I remember my dad spending most evenings and weekends at work in the garden, with me in tow. One of the great tools he had was a 'Jalo' which is "a wheeled soil cultivator, with various attachments – such as plough, rake, hoes and ridgers, which is powered by human effort. Brought into production shortly after the second world war, its manufacturers claimed it was ’12 times faster than by hand’ and ‘costs nothing for fuel or repairs and can be safely used by the youngest member of the family… in conditions where a powered machine would be unusable."


October 1959, the above photo has a caption on the back written by my dad, which says "Mechanisation at No 22

Bonfire nights were always fun. We'd spend weeks before November 5th going 'chubbing' (seems to have a whole new meaning in the modern world!) which was collecting branches and wood from around Ferry Lane for our bonfire. This was then assembled as a great pile in the garden. On mischief night, which was the 4th of November, we'd go out and try to set fire to other peoples bonfires whilst leaving 'guards' looking after our own stack of wood. Seems very mean now, but great fun at the time! My mum would always make a tray of 'bonfire toffee' for the 5th November, which was a very hard black treacly substance that we usually had to break with a hammer. 


Winter in the garden at 22 Balk Crescent, looking NW. No housing estates built yet on the farmland behind. 1959

There was a great community feel to our world around the prefabs. In the summer holidays we'd all be out playing from morning 'till evening building dens, fishing with home made nets down at the stream, ( a garden cane, coat hanger bent into a circle, with the foot of an old nylon stocking attached) or simply off on our bikes. A favourite of mine was playing all day cricket matches in the field by the prefabs, with the dads joining in after work. It was a very safe world to inhabit, even though we would play on the (potentially) dangerous canal and river sides.


My sister Julie and me. Christmas day 1961, I'd obviously been given a football, and my sister a balloon! Behind us across the playing field are the avenue of prefabs that led onto Ferry Lane. I had a friend, Martin Sambrook who lived at the top of here. The prefab by my elbow was where the Lane family lived, with their two boys, John and Keith who we would play out with. 

One of our great adventures was to climb to the top of the huge slag heaps belonging to the pit at the bottom of Balk Lane and slide down on old pieces of conveyor belt. Great fun and many grazed legs and arms during my childhood. Every week my sister and I used to go to the boat builders across the wooden toll bridge at the bottom of Ferry lane and collect wood shavings and sawdust to put in our rabbit hutch. I remember the River Calder being only inches from the underside of the bridge on many occasions. Incredibly fast flowing and about to burst it's banks it was quite a frightening sight.


Taken in our back garden at 22 Balk Crescent in 1962.

This was the 'Horner Trio' and we'd just won another prize, probably at the Pontefract Music Festival.

Me on violin, my sister Julie on cello, and John Hartley, 2nd violin with the cup.

The photos below are courtesy of Barry Pinder who was born at the top of Ferry Lane in 1946 and later moved into the prefabs until 1968. The following photos give an invaluable insight into life living on Ferry Lane during the mid 20th Century. Thank you to Barry for sharing his photos with us.

Our memories of Stanley

By Mavis Pateman

My sister and I lived in Stanley and our parents lived there for over 50 years, my father was born and died in Stanley living there all his life. I now live in Berkshire and my sister lives in Lincolnshire but we continue to have contact with Stanley through friends, the Parish magazine and the websites.

My father was Jack Barber, a respected and loved church warden for over 40 years. My mother was Flora Barber, also a well loved member of St Peter's Church and only passed away in 2008, aged 93 years. We are their daughters, Jennifer and Mavis, I went to Rothwell Grammar School with Barry Pinder. We lived at No. 19 Victory Avenue from the day it was built for eleven years, when our family, plus lots of others in the avenue were re-housed in new housing at the top of Lime Pit Lane. We all went reluctantly as we loved our houses in Ferry Lane but were told we had to leave as the prefabs were being pulled down! We both have wonderful memories of life there and still keep in touch with the Newsome’s and Boardman’s.


Henry Horner & Jack Barber


Flora, Jennifer and Mavis Bar​ber

Ferry Lane and the Prefabs

By Jennifer Terry (Barber)

My family and I had a very happy childhood on Ferry Lane. There were 24 families in Victory Avenue and I remember the families were as follows;

1. Allsop’s , 2.? 3. Hepworth’s, 4. Foracre’s, 5. Johnson’s, 6. Pinder’s, 7. Newsome’s, 8. Oakes, 9. Taylor’s, 10. Clarkson’s, 11. Artle’s, 12. Clapham’s, 13. Abson’s, 14. Conway’s, 15. Smale’s, 16. Fisher’s, 17. Ombler’s, 18. Graham’s, 19. Barber’s, 20. Holgate’s, 21. Brook’s, 22. Hamilton’s, 23. Boardman’s, 24. Jackson’s

We had a playing field, swings, slide and a red telephone box at the top of the avenue as no one had their own phones. Lumb’s ice cream van came round every day and every week the library van called.

The bus from Wakefield came to the bottom of Ferry Lane turning in Ward Lane as the wooden bridge wasn’t strong enough to take the weight of a double decker.

We had four shops in Ferry Lane. One at the bottom was Sally Hutchinson’s which was very scary to a child being very dimly lit. Further up was Doris’s on the corner of Chuggler Bunk. There was Pratchet’s just passed the Methodist Chapel and at the top of the lane was Bedford’s which sold just about everything. In those days we shopped on a daily basis as the products were fresh, no long life preservatives.

The coal miners used to come up Balk Lane from their shifts at Park Hill Colliery. Their faces, arms and clothes were covered in coal dust so you could just see their white eyes through the dust as there were no baths or showers at the pit.

My mums good friends, Vera Newsome and Emma Boardman helped each other out when things were scarce and remained best friends until the end of their days. My sister and I have very fond childhood friends we played with in the prefabs ands still see to this very day.

The following are some of the families who lived on Victory Avenue on the prefabs estate, courtesy of Barry & Malcolm Pinder

At No.1 were The Allsopps with Ada, Arthur and children Dorothy, Peter, Ian and June. At No.4 were The Fouracres with Maud, Albert and daughters Patricia and Pamela. (Mrs. Fouracre used to ride around on a purple "Triumph Tina" scooter which was quite unusual for a woman in those days.) At No.5 were The Johnsons with one of the children called Ruth. (Mr. Johnson was a wheelchair user and worked in the gate house at the entrance to Pinderfields Hospital.) They were followed into that prefab by the Banham family.

At No.6 were the Pinder family with Joseph, Rose and sons Malcolm and Barry. The Newsome family lived at No.7 with children David and Marion. They were followed by the Hopwood Family. At No.8 lived the Oakes Family with mum Freda, her husband and children Keith and Wilma. They were followed by Jean and Graham Johnson and their children. The Taylor family lived at No.9 with children Pat and John. Mr. and Mrs. Woodcock lived at No.10. Clifford and Mary Kirby lived at No.12 for some time with their daughter Christine. We think that Brian Briggs, the Wakefield Trinity player, lived at No.13 at one time with his parents. At No.14 lived the Conway family with one of the daughters called Maureen. They were followed by the Stanley family.Other families included the Claphams and the Grahams with son David. Mary and Hector Bolton with daughter Angela lived for some time at No.19 with the Brooks family with son Clive living at No.21. There was also The Smales family and the Boardmans.

The following set of photos are of surviving prefabs in Swillington, Leeds, one of the very few sites in the are where these unique houses still survive. What is surprising about these houses is how big they are inside, compared with the seemingly small exterior. Complete with two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and living room they offered normal working class families of the 1940s many of the comforts that we take for granted today.

The following photos are of a surviving prefab, similar to the ones from Ferry Lane which is exhibited at a museum in Wales.

More to follow

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