Leeds Nostalgia: Prefabs were fab, say ‘Cottingleyites’

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When former Cottingley resident, Ann Squires, embarked on a trip down memory lane to relieve the glory of her childhood years on her beloved Cottingley Estate, she never expected so many of her former neighbours to take the journey back in time with her.

It seems Ann’s article about the Cottingley Estate in Leeds, which featured in the Yorkshire Evening Post back in March, stirred up more than a few fond memories about the good old days.

Little did Ann know that she would soon find herself completely inundated with masses upon masses of emails and letters from fellow ‘Cottingleylites’ eager to share their special memories along with her.

While the Cottingley Estate is now a distant memory of times past, its former residents are quite unwilling to allow its memory to die and if Ann’s brimming inbox is any indication, the estate still retains a poignant place in the heart’s of its previous tenants. Almost 60 years on since residents had to move out of the prefab homes, and with many now living abroad or in different parts of the country, it appears that time has not diminished the treasured memories of this beloved estate and, much to Ann’s great surprise, the fond recollections have continued to pour in.

Her article sparked a flurry of networking amongst the former Cottingley community, prompting comical anecdotes to be exchanged and old acquaintances and connections to be re-established, proving that friendships can indeed last a lifetime.

With her inbox left bursting at the seams with replies, the community spirit of the ‘Cottingleylites’ continues to live on and as the memories have kept pouring in, Cottingley has been revived from the ashes and brought back to the present with all of its former glory.

Previous tenant of 11 Cottingley Walk back in 1947, Margaret Hill, recalled her childhood years spent on the estate with great fondness.

She said: “Myself, my mum, dad, and sister Doreen moved in when I was three years old and we had no gas or electric for a while.

“When we first moved in, the milk came by horse and cart from the milk man called Stan and the horse called Jill.

“The highlight of the year for the children was the Cottingley Gala. Stan the milk man and Jill, his horse, came all trimmed up with bows and ribbons.

“My mum is still in touch with some of the people from the early days of Cottingley. It was a wonderful place to grow up and I have many happy memories living there.”

Jean Brown, former resident of 22 Cottingley Gardens, was among one of the first families to move into the estate.

This was during a time when the houses on the estate had no electricity for almost a year, yet residents did not allow this mere minor hindrance to destroy their excitement of moving into to their brand new, and rather idyllic, homes. Jean said: “We were one of the first 15 families to move into the estate. There was no electricity at that time, only paraffin lamps, but we had a gas fridge, a cooker and a wash boiler.

“I did enjoy living there as a child. We left when they started to knock the prefabs down. It was a sad sight to see them go.

“I have such happy memories and they have all been reawakened. There was a lovely community spirit and the neighbours always looked out for me as my mum, Nora Heaton, was in a wheelchair, bless her, and my dad, Albert, was out at work.”

The close-knit community of the Cottingley residents is perhaps the most treasured memory of life on the estate and this family-like spirit has remained something that most have struggled to recapture, as Jeff Carter recalls.

He said: “I was born there in 1949 at 66 Dulverton Road and lived there until 1966 when our family moved to Beeston. I have to say that the ‘new’ Cottingley is nothing like the old one.

“When I was growing up, there were lots of other kids growing up together. Most of the families were ex-service people and, as it was shortly after the end of the war, there was a great camaraderie among the residents.

“There was a great community spirit that is difficult to put into words and it is something which, I feel, could never be recreated today.”

Whilst the bygone glory days of the Cottingley Estate are now a thing of the past, the special memories that were made have not been lost over time.

Contact Times Past with your story at the usual address.

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