Prefabs – Building the Post-War World
The Prefab Museum is a living history online museum about Britain’s post-war prefabs. Part of the Temporary Housing and Emergency Factory Made Homes programmes, 156,623 prefabricated buildings were erected all over the UK between 1946-9 to rehouse ex-servicemen and their families or bombed-out people. In 1942, following the Blitz, the Burt Committee was set up by the wartime Government to provide guidance on the housing shortage. The committee recommended temporary housing as a solution to the shortage of construction workers and the destruction of housing in the Blitz. They aimed to accommodate servicemen returning from the war, people made homeless by bombing, or living in overcrowded and insanitary conditions. (Photos courtesy of the Airfield Research Group archive). Read about the politics behind the prefabs here.
In March 1944, Winston Churchill broadcast a speech titled Our Greatest Effort is Coming in which he mentioned prefabs as a solution for re-housing servicemen coming back from the war and their young families. D-Day hadn’t even happened, nor the infamous V1 and V2 attacks and Churchill already promised the building of 500,000 of these new all mod-cons cottages. You can read the full text of the speech here.
The part dealing with prefabs is titled Million Homes Destroyed and was kindly read and interpreted in July 2013 by actor Neil Titley known for his Oscar Wilde shows.
Prefabs were located on bomb sites and open spaces including parks, in rural locations, towns and villages, and were scheduled to last 10 to 15 years. They did much longer as hundreds of them are still standing, lived-in and cherished 70 years later.
People tell us about locations of prefabs all the time. But most of them are under threat of demolition to be replaced by modern dwellings and flats, which in most cases are not reaching the standards of the 1946 luxurious bungalows! Research and planning went into their development, how best to address the housing crisis caused by the devastation of war, and the shortage of skilled construction workers who had been called up or on other war work.
The result was the ‘prefab’ which was made of prefabricated parts and could be put together and erected by semi and unskilled workers.
Prefabs boasted fitted kitchens and wardrobes, indoor toilet and bathroom with heated towel rail, constant hot water, a vented heating system – and a fridge! Visit our Design page to find out more.
Ones to watch: The 1944 films a ‘Home of the Future‘ showing a prototype prefab, and ‘Huts for the Homeless‘. From 1945 ‘Houses at Speed‘. Post-war reconstruction of Dover is shown in Rebuilding Dover: approximately 7 minutes into the film, American UK100 and AIROH prefabs are featured.
Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings (Arcon MkV): Chiltern Open Air Museum (Universal) : Eden Camp Museum (Tarran) : Imperial War Museum, Duxford (Uni-seco) : National Museum Wales, St Fagans (Airoh) : Rural Life Centre, Surrey (Arcon MkV) :
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