Great Flood of 1953: Norwegian wood Harwich homes still standing
- 17 February 2013
- From the section Essex
They were built to last just 20 years.
Yet 60 years on, the 24 pre-fabricated homes sent across the North Sea to shelter the victims of the 1953 floods in Harwich still stand proud.
The terrible floods that so badly affected large swathes of the east coast claimed several lives in Harwich, and destroyed parts of the town centre.
The flat pack homes were a gift from the "people of Norway" after the surge.
Six of them sit facing the sea in Harbour Crescent.
And despite the new white plastic cladding, they are pretty much unchanged.
Eileen Hall has lived in her Norwegian home for 32 years. Her parents lived just around the corner when the floods struck the town.
Slept in shed
"They didn't know about the flood until my mother opened the back door and the water rushed in," she said. Her family survived.
And from the moment she first saw the new prefabricated wooden homes on the sea front, she thought they were "lovely".
She told how re-homing the flood victims "went on for quite a while". In one case, a family lived on Harwich Green with three brothers sleeping in a shed.
For such people, the gift from Norway was manna from heaven.
"It was wonderful," she said.
Further back from the seafront, in the aptly named Norway Crescent, stand the rest of the gifted homes.
These still have their original black wooden cladding.
Norman and Barbara Manning have lived in one for more than 40 years. They still have their original wooden front door.
They bought the house for £5,300.
Mr Manning said: "The walls are only about four or five inches thick but they start off with a framework, then inside you have a sheeting of tarpaulin like roofing felt and then they had boards put on.
"It will stand for 100 years as long as you keep the sides painted well."
"It's the best house we've had," said Mrs Manning. "We've brought up nine children here."
She said the "pride" people took in their streets explained the longevity of the Norwegian houses.
"You were very proud to move into one of these - I just think that was the way people were made in those days - to care," Mrs Manning said.
Kim Traavik, the Norwegian ambassador to the UK, said: "Norway, having received so much help from our British friends during the war years, wanted to help in whatever way we could, and decided to send 24 pre-fabricated wooden houses as a gift to Harwich to help people who had been made homeless by the flood.
"These houses were originally meant to last for 10-20 years, but I am very pleased to confirm that they are still standing today, in their two separate, original locations: Norway Crescent and Harbour Crescent, and I believe that they have proven very popular with the residents.
"The Norwegian houses stand there today as a symbol of the strong ties between our two countries.
"Norway and Britain remain strong allies and collaborators in all fields, and we know that we will always be there for one another."