Every week people email us or tell us on Facebook and Twitter, and at our events, talks and walks, about prefabs still up and lived in. We put them on our Map, look them up on the old maps, and go exploring to find out where they are and talk to residents if possible. We are invited to and visit archives as well where we find sources of information and photographs which help enrich our prefabs knowledge!
The Chiltern Open Air Museum
Cathy and Hazel from the Chiltern Open Air Museum kindly invited us to visit their archive in February 2017. This beautiful museum is in the Chilterns near Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire and is well worth a visit to see their historic buildings, including an original Universal prefab and Nissen Hut. The Universal was manufactured locally in Amersham. The prefab at the museum was relocated from the Finch Lane estate and has been carefully restored, opening to the public in 1994. Last August the Moving Prefab was there for one of the museum’s Terrific Tuesdays on the hottest day of the year. The archive visit unearthed treasures not just about the Universal and its reconstruction but other types of prefabs too. There is a fascinating document detailing the progress of the prefabs on Finch Lane, from the beginning of the Temporary Housing (Emergency Factory Made Homes) programme in 1944 to completion in 1947 when the tenants moved in.
Our friends at Mémoire de Soye in Ploemeur, Brittany, have been on the lookout for prefabs in France, many of them still inhabited. France had about the same amount of prefabs as the UK, mainly concentrated in the north, north-west and west of the country where bombing was most severe. In the grounds of an old chateau Association Mémoire de Soye have a delightful museum of ‘baraques’. as prefabs are called in French, and have re-constructed three types: French, Canadian and American UK100. Elisabeth interviewed a British couple who bought a house in Carhaix, Brittany in 2010, not realising it was a prefab until they met her!
Silver End, Essex
On the way back from a talk in Bocking we stopped at Silver End, home of the Crittall factory and the model village created in the 1920s for the workers. Crittall not only had a connection with prefabs, as the metal framed windows were used in some of the prefab types, but also had prefabs too! Read our blog post Le Chateau (de Crittall).
Swedish timber houses and permanent prefab bungalows
Exploring south Cambridgeshire, June 2016, we discovered two pairs of Swedish timber prefabs in Caxton, and Hawksley BL8 aluminium bungalows in Duxford and Sawston. Some of the Hawksleys have undergone improvements to insulation by South Cambridgeshire council. We talked to the lady who had lived in her Swedish prefab since 1959. Residents in Sawston and Duxford told us about improvements to their prefabs, and one lady assured us that her Hawksley BL8 had been described by the council as an aluminium bungalow, not a prefab!
Read more about Swedish prefabs and where they are located. You can read about the history of Hawksley on our guest blog post by Paul Francis of the Airfield Research Group. We visited their archive in Alconbury, Huntingdonshire, and were the last visitors in its current home, as the building is due to be demolished. On our travels we also discovered this British Concrete Federation hut, used as a wartime nursery and now a health clinic!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.