A man stands in the window of his prefab with a bright blue door.
A brief introduction to Architecture Historic photography Listed places

A Brief History of Prefabs

After thousands of homes in Britain were destroyed during the Second World War, temporary houses known as 'prefabs' were built.

The bombing of towns and cities in Britain during the Second World War resulted in a desperate need for housing. Over 200,000 homes were destroyed by aerial bombing raids from Wallsend in the north to the Isle of Wight in the south.

A photograph of a man standing in the window of a prefab with a bright blue door.
Number 22, 1 to 37 Sunnyhill Prefabs in Stroud, Gloucestershire. © Historic England Archive. BB96/08807.

What does ‘prefab’ mean?

Prefabricated houses, known as ‘prefabs’, were an interim solution until the country could return to constructing permanent homes with traditional building materials. They were intended to last no more than a decade.

A black and white photograph of people posing for a photograph in front of a prefab house.
Dignitaries pose in front of the 100,000th temporary house to be erected in Great Britain since the Second World War in Wandsworth, London. © Historic England Archive. P/H00132/001.

Their progressive designs and modern appliances often offered their occupants an improved standard of living, resulting in long-lasting affection.

What were prefabs made of?

Early temporary prefabs were constructed using a timber frame and asbestos cladding or cement, while some later buildings used aluminium.

A photograph of a prefab bungalow, made of a timber frame with white panels.
Designed by the Selection Engineering Company Ltd, the Uni-Seco prefabricated bungalow was the third most common type of prefab built as part of the Temporary Housing Programme. They were constructed using a timber frame and asbestos cement. © Historic England Archive. DP183945.

Later, permanent prefabs were made using precast reinforced concrete or steel frames clad in asbestos panels.

Do people still live in prefabs?

Although initially planned as a temporary fix, many prefabricated homes have lasted far longer than originally intended.

Those that have survived are often well-loved and defended against the threat of redevelopment.

Colour photo of a man standing at his garden gate in front of a prefab bungalow.
An owner in front of their prefab in Moseley, Birmingham. © Historic England Archive. DP220920.

In total, 156,623 prefab bungalows were built between 1945 and 1949.

According to the Pre-fab Museum, around 8,000 are left in the UK today, with about 30 listed. People still live in them today.

The history of prefabs

As well as the interruption to traditional house building and damage from bombing, the war years also witnessed a dramatic increase in population growth.

In 1942 the government set up the Burt Committee to ‘consider materials and methods of construction suitable for the building of houses and flats, having regard to efficiency, economy and speed of erection’.

A black and white photo showing a prefab behind a small brick wall.
This Universal House prefabricated bungalow dates from 1946. The Universal Housing Co Ltd of Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, designed it. Constructed using timber or steel frames and asbestos cement cladding, each bungalow cost £1,218 to build. © Historic England Archive. P/H00093/001.

It led to the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act of 1944 and the Emergency Factory-Made Housing Programme, known as the Temporary Housing Programme.

The Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act authorised the government to spend up to £150 million on temporary houses. The act set out to construct at least 300,000 homes in two years. It provided for the construction of temporary, prefabricated housing.

In the first decade after the Second World War, nearly 500,000 permanent homes were built using some form of prefabrication.

Prefab housing estates were often built on bomb sites, some of which were cleared and prepared by Italian and German prisoners of war.

In 1942, the government introduced the Utility Furniture Scheme, established to create good quality standard furniture when there was a shortage of raw materials and increased demand due to wartime bombing.

Prefabs at the Tate Gallery

In May 1944, an exhibition was held at the Tate Gallery to display prefab designs, including the Portal’s Palace, the Arcon, Uni-Seco and Trarran bungalows.

A black and white photo of an American prefab. A person looks out of the window.
A UK100 or American prefabricated house in the grounds of the Tate Gallery, Bulinga Street, Millbank, London. © Historic England Archive. P/H00050/001.

The Phoenix Type

  • Designed by: John Laing, McAlpine and Henry Boot Ltd
  • Construction: timber frame with asbestos cladding
  • Built: 2,428 throughout Britain
A black and white photo of Phoenix Type prefabs. In the foreground is a fence and garden with a small tree.
Phoenix Type temporary bungalows in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. © Historic England Archive. P/H00099/003.

These prefabs were constructed using a timber frame and asbestos cladding. Each unit cost £1,200.

16 surviving examples in Moseley, Birmingham, were given listed building status in 1998.

The Uni-Seco

The Uni-Seco was one of several prefabs displayed at the Tate Gallery in 1944.

A black and white photo of Uni-Seco prefab houses in Brixton, London.
Uni-Seco prefabricated houses in Brixton, London. Designed by the Selection Engineering Company Ltd, the Uni-Seco temporary prefabricated house was made of asbestos cement on a timber frame. One of the most numerous prefabs of the post-war era. © Historic England Archive. P/H00049/005.
  • Designed by: George Fejér for the Selection Engineering Company
  • Construction: Timber frame and asbestos cement cladding
  • 28,999 units built all over Britain

The Uni-Seco prefab estate in Catford was built by German prisoners of war who were billeted nearby.

The Uni-Seco was a highly versatile prefab. The building was designed in a kit and could be assembled in various combinations to suit its location.

A black and white photo of a young girl in the kitchen of a Uni-Seco prefabricated home in Brixton, London. The kitchen is on the left and a table and chairs in the right. The girl stands at the sink.
A young girl in the kitchen of a Uni-Seco prefabricated home in Brixton, London. © Historic England Archive. P/H00049/007.

The Uni-Seco’s designer, Hungarian émigré George Fejér introduced streamlined kitchen design and appliances. This Uni-Seco kitchen features integrated shelving, fitted cupboards, a fridge and a fold-away table.

The AIROH House

  • Designed by: Morrisons Engineering Company
  • Construction: Aluminium
  • Built: 54,500 units
A black and white photo of an AIROH prefab being assembled. Several people help manoeuvre the prefab into place, supported by a crane.
An AIROH House being assembled in the grounds of the Tate Gallery, London. © Historic England Archive. P/H00042/003.

Also known as the Aluminium Bungalow, AIROH stands for Aircraft Industries Research Organisation for Housing.

The AIROH brought together several aircraft manufacturers to diversify their product lines in the immediate post-war period. With the capacity to produce vast quantities of aluminium, the AIROH was made in large numbers.

The UK100 or American

A Burt Committee delegation of engineers sent to the United States recommended a temporary prefab design created by the Federal Public Housing Authority. 8,150 arrived in Britain in 1945.

A black and white photo showing the bedroom of a prefab, with a bed to the centre left.
Utility Furniture in the best bedroom of a prefabricated US House in the Tate Gallery, London grounds. The British government set up the Utility Furniture Scheme in 1942 to standardise the design and materials of new furniture during the Second World War. © Historic England Archive. P/H00050/006.
  • Designed by: US Federal Public Housing Authority
  • Built: 8,150

It was initially planned for 30,000 UK100s to be imported from the United States. However, the end of the Lend-Lease Act reduced the number to 8,150.

This UK100 bedroom features furniture designed under the Utility Furniture Scheme.

Permanent prefabs

While temporary prefabs could help solve the nation’s housing crises in the short term, a supply of permanent houses was of utmost importance.

A sepia photograph showing people working on a permanent prefab house.
A British Iron and Steel Federation prefabricated house at the Ministry of Works’ testing ground, Northolt, London. © Historic England Archive. OP33577.

Wartime and post-war shortages and austerity meant designers and builders were encouraged to develop innovative solutions.

In 1943 the Ministry of Works established an experimental demonstration site in Northolt, London, which enabled new designs to be costed and shown to the public. In the first decade after the Second World War, nearly 500,000 permanent homes were built using some form of prefabrication.

The Orlit House

  • Designed by: Czech émigré architect Ervin Katona for Orlit Ltd
  • Construction: precast reinforced concrete
A black and white photo of the Orlit houses in Tower Hamlets, London.
Orlit houses, Kingfield Estate, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, London. © Historic England Archive. P/H00060/001.

To help solve the housing crisis in the London borough of Poplar, the building firm Orlit Ltd proposed a two-storey prefabricated house.

The Ministry of Works built the homes on a site previously cleared by German prisoners of war.

The Howard House

  • Designed by: architect and town planner Frederick Gibberd for civil engineering and building contractors John Howard and Company
  • Construction: light steel frame clad with asbestos panels
  • Built: 1,500
A black and white photo showing people constructing a Howard House prefab. People are climbing three ladders across the front of the building.
A Howard House under construction in Windsor and Maidenhead. The prefabricated Howard House was designed by architect Frederick Gibberd and produced by John Howard & Co. Constructed using a light steel frame clad with asbestos panels. © Historic England Archive. OP33568.

Named after its manufacturer, the Howard House was suitable for factory mass production and only took a few days to construct.

Airey Houses

  • Designed by: Leeds industrialist and builder Sir Edwin Airey
  • Construction: precast concrete blocks
  • Built: around 26,000
A black and white photo showing Airey Houses under construction in Chingford. In the foreground to the right, a person works close to the ground underneath scaffolding.
Airey Houses under construction in Chingford, Waltham Forest, London. © Historic England Archive. P.H00005/004.

One of the most prolific permanent prefab houses, the Airey House could be built in two weeks and required no skilled labour or specialist equipment.

They were made of small concrete blocks that were light enough to be handled by one or two workers. Conceived in the 1920s, they continued to be built up to 1955.

The Swedish House

  • Construction: timber
  • Built: 5,000
A photo of a Swedish House prefab.
A prefabricated Swedish House in an unidentified location in England. In the mid-1940s, 5,000 prefabricated two-storey houses were imported from Sweden. © Historic England Archive. P/H00002/004.

In the early 20th century, Sweden had a skilled prefab industry. In the mid-1940s, 5,000 Swedish Houses were exported to England.

The two-storey houses had two or three bedrooms, a living room and a bathroom. The first was built at Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, in January 1946.

The Wates House

  • Designed by: Wates Ltd
  • Construction: cast concrete
  • Built: 60,000
A black and white photo of prefab houses in Tulse Hill, London.
Wates Houses, Tulse Hill, London. © Historic England Archive. AA98/06364.

During the Second World War, the construction company Wates Ltd developed several concrete structures, including parts of the Mulberry Harbours used during the Normandy invasion.

After the war, Wates used its modular cast concrete technology to construct over 60,000 houses and flats.

The Cornish Unit

  • Designed by: Cornish firm, the English China Clay Company
  • Construction: concrete panels
  • Built: 40,000
A photo of Cornish Unit houses in Hoo St Werburgh.
Cornish Unit houses in Hoo St Werburgh, Medway. The designs for the Cornish Unit were finalised by 1946. In the following 10 years, more than 40,000 were built by local authorities. © Historic England Archive. DP172145.

The designs for the Cornish Unit were finalised in 1946. Over 40,000 Cornish Unit homes were built between 1946 and 1956 by local authorities.

The concrete panels used in their construction incorporated waste material from china clay pits. Bungalows and two-storey and terraced house versions were made.

Protected prefabs

Despite the temporary nature of many of the country’s wartime and early post-war prefabs, some have survived. This has sometimes resulted from a local protest against the threat of demolition and redevelopment.

Two people with crossed arms stand outside a Phoenix prefab in Moseley, Birmingham.
The occupiers of a Phoenix prefab in Moseley, Birmingham. 16 Phoenix prefabs in Wake Green Road were listed at Grade II in 1998. © Historic England Archive. BB98/21731.

Recognition of the architectural and historical significance of the prefab was eventually given in 1998 when 16 prefabs in Birmingham were listed at Grade II, and in 2009 when six were listed in South East London.

Wake Green Road, Moseley, Birmingham

Phoenix design prefab bungalows were built along Wake Green Road in Moseley, Birmingham, in 1945. The Ministry of Works constructed them on land and foundations supplied by Birmingham City Council.

A photo of the Phoenix Prefabs on Wake Green Road, Moseley, Birmingham.
Phoenix Prefabs, Wake Green Road, Moseley, Birmingham. © Historic England Archive. BB98/21734.

Modelled on the prototype Portal bungalow exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1944, 2,248 Phoenix prefabs were built as part of the Temporary Housing Programme.

16 Phoenix prefabs were listed at Grade II in 1998 for their architectural and historical significance.

Excalibur Estate, Catford, Greater London

In 2009 six surviving prefabs at the Excalibur Estate, Catford, in the London borough of Lewisham, were listed at Grade II.

A photo of prefab hoses in Catford. There are protest signs on the fence, with the most prominent reading 'LEAVE THE ESTATE ALONE.'
Protest banners outside prefabricated houses, Excalibur Estate, Catford, London. © Historic England Archive. DP021327.

As part of England’s largest surviving post-war prefab estate, the Uni-Seco bungalows were built between 1945 and 1946 in one of London’s most heavily-bombed boroughs.

The prefabs are a mixture of Mark 2 and Mark 3 types and were locally known to have been constructed by Italian and German prisoners of war.

Prefabs: A social and architectural history
You can read more about prefabs on the National Heritage List for England and in our publication ‘Prefabs: A Social and Architectural History‘, written by writer and photographer Elizabeth Blanchet and journalist and historian Sonia Zhuravlyova.

Further reading

43 comments on “A Brief History of Prefabs

  1. Kay talbot

    I live in one now and would love some more information about them in the Doncaster area like what was was on the land before the house was put up

    • James Thomson

      Hi! Get in touch with the South Yorkshire Archaeology Service. They will have records of that sort of thing.

  2. michael gurney

    I lived in one as a small boy and I remember they suffered from damp.

  3. I really enjoyed this article and was thinking along the lines of why this isn’t being done today to provide affordable housing when I saw that the Elizabeth Blanchet book addresses that. It’s one of those books I’ve been meaning to buy so that’s a good reminder. Love these houses; I had a schoolfriend who lived in one and I always enjoyed visiting her.

    • Mark Stainburn

      we now call the new ones timber frame

    • Arlene Jane Harris

      I was just wondering the same, Eileen. Minus the asbestos it would seem an affordable answer. No doubt there are reasons perhaps heating, insulation?

  4. Kate Booth

    What were the implications of asbestos being involved in their manufacture please?

    • Many builders died young from silicosis and cancer.
      It’s pretty inert when it’s in the building, but special measures to contain the dust must be taken when demolishing them

      • It also limited any work to update them with central heating, rewiring or a more modern kitchen as such work would almost inevitably have involved disturbing the asbestos. That then made them less desirable for later occupants and would have contributed to their eventual replacement…
        It’s easy to see why there was such a reluctance to admit the health problems as asbestos was such a marvellously versatile material.

  5. Beeches Road, in Chelmsford, is another fine example of prefabs. There must be 100 in total. All seem to be loved and look to be of the Phoenix design.

    • Thanks Andy. I’ve just looked at them on Street View. Amazing!

    • The Chelmsford ones are Hawksley BD8’s. They are 3 bedroomed. They were mostly semi-detached, but some are detached

  6. I was born in a ‘double decker’ prefab 1950’s in Leicester. My grandparents were bombed out and were rehoused in the prefab in the suburbs. The houses are still standing and lived in. They were well proportioned with large gardens but quite cold in the winter with regular indoor frost on the windows. Granny always had a good fire in the grate so the downstairs was always cosy

    • Arlene Jane Harris

      Karen, I lived as a child in a brick built semi – in the late 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s – and we regularly had frost on the inside, too. No central heating. So perhaps not too different to prefabs in that respect. Brrrrr!

  7. B mercer

    Would like to buy my family members house who sadly passed away .but can’t get a mortgage only cash buy

  8. Ron Buttery

    I lived in one in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex…….it was made of aluminium with a shallow pitched roof & said to be of a Canadian design. It was excellent with a bathroom, fitted kitchen & even a simple form of warm air central heating. We were very happy there. I didn’t see a picture of one in your collection of photographs…..why is this?

  9. I believe there is a surviving example of a semi-detached Swedish House on the corner of Hook Street, Hook, Wiltshire – part of it has been clad in red brick. Looks very similar to the image shown above.

  10. Edward Barkway

    My brother and I lived in a uk100? We used to climb up the framework (we called it the terrace)?? onto the flat roof when Mum was out. Dad made us a box cart which we would race round the prefab often banging into the support post which got a “reaction” from our parents!

  11. I was born and bred in a prefab in Hackney and lived there from 1947 – 1965. We had a kitchen with a built-in fridge, a wash boiler with ringer attached, a cooker, running hot and cold water, a roomy larder and a pull down table. We also had a bathroom and W.C. (separate rooms) and there was plenty of cupboard space all round the house. The living room was also very large. It was a wonderful place to spend my formative years. Thinking back in later life, it must have seemed like Heaven to my parents who, before the War had lived in a crowded flat with my father’s parents and seven siblings and then in a tiny two room flat.

    I have written a book about my time in the prefab called Pie ‘n’ Mash & Prefabs. Available from all good booksellers.

    • Christine BINKS

      Love your book. My sister who lives in the United States found it and sent me a copy. We lived in a prefab in Heaton Park in Prestwich. Our Mam thought it was a castle with hot and cold water gas fridge and indoor bathroom with an airing cupboard. She never wanted to leave.

  12. Caroline

    I live in a prefab in Bristol and I love it. Compact but with everything you need and a garden to grow some veg. Lovely.

  13. Gordon Dow

    “ The bombing of towns and cities in Britain during the Second World War resulted in a desperate need for housing. Over 200,000 homes were destroyed by aerial bombing raids from Wallsend in the north to the Isle of Wight in the south.”

    I think you’ll find that places in Scotland which were bombed, eg Glasgow, are a bit further north than Wallsend.

    • Dr Mike Osborne

      It is Historic England, remember. Maybe the text should have read England rather than Britain. I too had friends who lived in prefabs in south London- great memories.

  14. Mick Jones

    Lived in the grey asbestos type, very well designed, cold in winter, mom’s first home loved it. These should make a comeback for first time buyers.(young generation) it’s not rocket science.

  15. £1,200 seems a bit steep. My parents bought their new-built 3 bed semi in the late forties for less than £1,000, if my memory serves me right.

  16. Robert Newman

    I lived for some time in a nissan hut, one of many off Lea Bridge Road Leytonstone, which were used a temporary accomodation until peoople were given permanent accomodation in counil flats and maisonettes.

  17. Rita Wood

    I remember prefabs being built between our cul-de-sac of 1930s semis and the Chertsey bypass, in Whitton, Middlesex. I think German prisoners-of-war were employed for that, I remember walking past them on my way to junior school – no security fences. The pre-fabs had flat roofs, probably sealed with tar, as I picked up a spare ball of tar in the skirt of a (re-made, pre-war) brown silk dress, and carried it home to play with…

  18. David Watt

    Laing’s went on to develop and build the ‘Easi-form’ kit built house. My uncle worked for Laing and built estates of them in west Cumberland in the early 1950s. He and his wife also lived on-site in a ‘Terrapin’ fold away bungalow which could be packed onto a lorry and moved as required.

  19. Similar prefab houses were built in Commonwealth countries. Several still exist in Mauritius, where they were invaluable in (a) replacing insanitary properties on sugar estates, (b) providing for a rapidly rising population and (c) quickly replacing dwellings destroyed by cyclones. I’m not aware of any books or articles on the subject – perhaps there are details in files at The National Archives.

    Prefabs didn’t appear from nowhere during the war, of course: they had a lineage stretching back many decades, as the railways prefabricated waiting rooms and ancillary buildings from timber components, which could be transported in sections by train and erected on site quickly by small gangs of non-specialist workers. From the 1920s, the Southern Railway made great use of prefabricated structures – footbridges, huts, grain stores and much more – made from precast reinforced concrete at its Exmouth Junction works. And some of the prefab houses in Mauritius (eg in Bell Village) were built in the 1930s, I believe.

    It would good to know where the Wandsworth example was located. I only discovered recently that my 1960s flat in Balham was built on the site of a small ‘village’ of prefabs. All were swept away to make space for the Elmfield Estate.

  20. “Named after it’s manufacturer, the Howard House was suitable for factory mass production and only took a few days to construct.”
    Historic England, but not historic grammar :).

    • Obviously a case for Apostrophe Man! (A favourite greetings card of mine. Or should that be greeting’s!)

  21. John Rutherford

    I was fifteen when prefabs were being installed in Humberducy Lane Ipswich in 1945/46—–they have been modernized over the years and still do good service. Prefabs were intended to be temporary accommodation but being detached with a garden are superior to much of what is available now.

  22. Martin Williams

    It is a brilliant topic – I used to be involved in reinstating these throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. because they were seen as un mortgageable due to concrete deficiencies in some and fire potential in others. I would ask you to review the picture of the Wates House though, as these were large concrete panel houses, and that shown is clad, and not like any of the Wates Houses I came across. As you say, many of these survive and many are in private ownership and often let out. They were good houses! That applies to many of the PRC houses and you have only scratched the surface. I would direct you to a neat little booklet published in 1988 – Non Traditional Housing in Northern England, which was a guide to identification back in the day. There are others for the Southern regions. Many Non traditional houses including the asbestos clad ones may be hidden now behind the Insulation cladding schemes.

  23. These prebabricated buildings were used by the Home Office Prison Service to house officers in the ’60s. We lived in one for a while. Can anyone answer Kate Booth’s question about ther implications of asbestos in these buildings. I recalled these prefabs being dismantled and the debris placed in a fiels opposite our house.

    • Nigel Collier

      The panels were made of concrete with asbestos fibre reinforcement. This was an early example of a fibre reinforced composite material. Glass fibre cannot be used in concrete because the highly alkaline concrete corrodes the glass fibre and they weaken with age. The asbestos fibre-concrete matrix provides a thin, fairly lightweight panel which is fireproof in the sense that neither material is combustible. Therefore the panel provides a high degree of fire protection to the timber frame, though a hot enough fire over a prolonged period will permit heat to build up and charr the timber frame, weakening the whole structure. Similarly a prolonged, hot fire will dessicate the concrete matrix which will powder and crumble. Weathering (acid rain) will also destroy the alakline cement surface permitting it to slowly crumble away. When the cement is degraded by weathering or fire the asbestos fibres will be exposed, become loosened and are easily brushed out by anyone passing close enough to come into contact, or are blown into the atmosphere and deposited on nearby ground, or are washed out into the surrounding ground. When the ground dries out in summer the asbestos fibres (which are very fine but appear coarse because the fine fibres occur clumped together) and asbestos dust which occurs naturally with asbestos fibres – can be blown around and further distributed by the wind. (This is also a problem with asbestos fibre-concrete matrix flat panels as used in other light building construction, such as garages, sheds, etc in the 1950’s – my father had one in Northolt.) Generally, there is no problem once the panels are in place as long as they are not damaged, including the weathering/erosion mentioned above.
      It is a very good idea to seal the surface of these panels with a good application of masonry paint, water based primer-undercoat or emulsion paint (DO NOT USE any type of gloss paint or oil based paints of any type – the panels must be permitted to ‘breathe’ to avoid moisture problems). The initial application of water based non-gloss paint must be sprayed or rolled on since brushing will loosen the surface dust which has gathered from 70 or more years of weathering and so create a health hazard. Used paint rollers must not be allowed to dry out and when finished with they must be wrapped in a sealed plastic bag before disposal as they will have picked up asbestos containing dust. If a small brush is used to get into corners the same disposal of the wet brush applies. (NB Only use dust masks which are specifically for hazardous material use and dispose of according to the instructions, do NOT use a cheap ‘dust mask’ when working with asbestos containing materials.)
      All asbestos contaminated materials and waste MUST be disposed of by a licensed contractor at a licensed site, do not put asbestos containing material in your general waste bin, it is a health hazard and covered by asbestos waste regulations: by law. A licensed contractor is needed to repair any damaged asbestos panels or remove any surface contamination on unsealed or damaged panels, such as algal or mossy growth since if this is scraped off it will take a thin layer of asbestos dust with it.
      If you suspect that asbestos waste has contaminated any surrounding land then make a report to your local council, providing as much detail as possible of why you suspect this. They will take samples and may need to skim the surface in a controlled way and dispose of accordingly. Generally there is no health hazard apart form the dust, so gardens surrounding asbestos buildings which have already been painted will be safe to grow produce, play in, etc as the weathering will have been dispersed and no more weathering will be taking place provided the surface protection is maintained.
      If the asbestos surface is in good condition and protected by a water based paint and there have been no fires or dumping of any asbestos waste around the building, there is very little to cause a health hazard. Keep the surface protection in good condition and use a licensed contractor to carry out any repairs and disposals of asbestos waste including if you have an old asbestos panelled or roofed shed or garage you wish to remove.

      Information provided in good faith from my research into asbestos hazard when employed as a building materials technologist in the mid 1970’s when concerns about all types of asbestos products were growing.

      • Thank you for such a comprehensive reply. Very helpful. I have contracted an asbestos related disease. I recall the prefabs where I lived being dismantled and piled up in a field where we played on them. Not good!

  24. Sue Strickland

    My parents moved into a newly built prefab at Frenchay, Bristol, in 1947. It was their first proper “ home” – a chance for them and for many other young couples and families to move out of the old slums of the inner cities, away from sharing rooms with family, to have “ their own front door”, to have their own garden, to grow vegetables, and to live a healthier life near the country. They used to tell about the German prisoners of war building the roads around the newly developed site during the harsh winter of 1947- they, and many others, appreciated the work they put in. My parents moved on after 15 years or so, but they always recalled their “ prefab days” as their happiest. ( I have some photos if needed)

  25. Mike Walling

    One of my friends parents lived in one, when they passed away we got a few items of furniture when we were setting up the flat in 1968, this was in Exeter.

  26. Francis Wright

    Worth reading ‘Pre-Fab Kid’ by Gregory Holyoake, The author grew up in Deal, Kent, after WW2. The family home was a pre-fab.

  27. One aspect not mentioned is that they were also built (or should that be “erected”?) in rural parts of the country with little or no bomb damage. New house building had pretty much stopped during the war and there was considerable pressure for rapid replacement of substandard housing, which had inevitably deteriorated further throughout the war as labour and materials had been diverted elsewhere. This was very much the case in rural parts of Buckinghamshire, with many families living in pretty squalid cottages, and a prefab erected in Amersham has been relocated to the Chiltern Open Air Museum.

  28. Carole Riches

    I lived in a prefab in Blackpool which my mother thought was heaven as the house we left in Baildon, Yorkshire was very basic. Apart from being very cold in winter the prefab had a fully fitted kitchen (metal doors and enamel top surfaces) with a gas boiler for washing clothes and a gas fridge, something I have never seen since. The lounge had a stove fireplace with little doors with small glass windows and was the only room with heating unless you could afford electric heaters. It was rather a sad day when we moved as they were being demolished.

    • the stove also heated the back boiler for hot water, and in the kitchen was a panel that included an immersion heater switch as a a back up.
      in the hall/passage by the airing cupboard was a ceiling vent with flap, this could allow warmed air to pass through into 2 bedrooms.
      I was borne there early 47 and moved out , with parents, approx 20 years later, I loved the detached living as most of my pals lived in new council flats or old london terraces , outdoor toilets and probably no original batchrooms. But south london, the bombers left their mark back then,

  29. Ann Zeiler

    I lived in a flat roofed London prefab from about 1948 to 1961, when we moved in to “permanent” accommodation; the most important features were :- comprehensive built-in storage (cupboards, drawers, etc), gas-fired ‘fridge, clothes boiler and cooker, a centrally placed fire which heated water, a towel rail in the bathrom and a spacious airing cupboard. The fire had doors which could be closed at night so there were embers alight the fillowing morning . The most efficient fuel was coke which was stored in a shed in the large garden . Accommodation was two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen big enough to contain a table and 3 chairs , living room and a separate toilet. Behind the centrally placed front door was a square area which was large enough to accommodate a small table for flowers or an ornament and a row of pegs for coats etc.The only furniture which needed to be brought in were tables, chairs (dining and easy) and beds as everything else was built-in. We papered the walls and carpeted the floors. The windows were iron-framed casements which were lethal when gardening and you attemptd to stand while under them. I did hear that when prefabs were demolished many of them were re-erected in Italy with brick wall cladding. The new-build flat we moved to was nowhere nearly as well designed or as spacious.

    info for Carole R…the next time I saw a gas fridge was in a caravan in the 1980s.

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