Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Fabulous Prefab

Did you watch the new series of Foyle's War which aired on ITV a couple of months ago?  If so, what did you think of it?

Personally, I loved it and spent the entire 90 minutes (I watched it on catch up to avoid the 30 minutes of adverts!) glued to the spot.  I'm a fan of Foyle's War and was super excited when I knew it was to return to our screens, but was a little disappointed that there were only 3 episodes made and must admit that I did miss Sgt Milner.

Anyway, the eagle eyed among you may have noticed that Foyle's driver, Sam, was living in a rather splendid prefab.

For those of you who aren't familiar with prefabs, they were basically prefabricated homes, built in a factory and put together on site.  They were originally outlined in the Housing Act of 1944 and the idea was that the temporary structures, intended to last just 10 years, would provide affordable homes and solve the immediate housing shortage which had been caused by the German bombing of our towns and cities. 

Of an intended half a million, in the end, only 156,623 prefabs were built.  Construction was undertaken from 1945 to 1951, with varying designs used across the country.  Small, but most definitely perfectly formed, they boasted running water, an inside toilet, an electric cooker and, in many cases, a refrigerator (something we all take very much for granted nowadays).  For many who, pre-war, had had an outdoor toilet and bathed in front of the fire, the prefab offered luxury after adversity.  

Not intended for long term use, most were razed to the ground many years ago.  However, a small number remain and just a stones throw away from me in the north of Ipswich, there are more than 120 prefabs which have, for now, stood the test of time.

Built in 1947, they are, as far as I can tell, one of the largest "estates" of prefabs still standing. Certainly, they have been modernised and updated, UPVC windows fitted, new roofs etc, but they still hold the unmistakable charm of the fabulous prefab.  If you Google earth it, they are quite an impressive sight; little rectangles nestled neatly together. 

A great place to see one kitted out in true vintage style is IWM Duxford.  Duxford's prefab was made by Uni-Seco Structures Ltd and was erected in Peckham, South London, just after the war, and was inhabited until 1978.

It is placed at the back of the site, tucked behind the American Air Museum.  Sitting alongside a mock air raid shelter and victory garden, it's as though the family have gone out for the day and you are a mere visitor.

With sewing on the table, and a magazine on the chair, it's kitted out with everything the post war family needed.  I never tire of looking at it and it's well worth a look, if you get the chance. 

We visited on a beautifully sunny day in May and the reflection on the glass was quite bad, so please excuse the somewhat dodgy photographs.

The wooden high chair can be seen at the table.  My youngest had use of a simliar one, only it was painted white.

For me, prefabs are pretty special and I think there is something rather romantic about them.  A new home for the homeward bound solider and his family perhaps, or a safe place for a returning evacuee to rest his weary head.

They are one of the iconic post war images and I very much hope that when the remaining few are deemed uninhabitable, someone has the foresight to preserve more of them, so they aren't consigned to the pages of history. 

I have a romantic image in my head of sitting in my prefab, sewing a new dress while the children play in the larger than average garden.  In truth, I would struggle to get all my tat into a prefab, let alone try to live in one but I can dream, can't I?? ;o)


  1. I adore prefabs too. I think one would suit me down to the ground. I was devastated to hear we had a load in our little town! Dad was quite tempted to by one once (wish he had), but alas, nowhere to put it- was super cheap too! Ah well, one day…one day… ;)
    Tupps x

    1. It surprised me how many pockets of them were. The ones near me have trees outside them which still have a faint white painted line so people could see them in the blackout. I find little discoveries like that exciting - sad but true :o) Ah, a prefab of your own? I could definitely see you in one xx

  2. I loved the prefab at Duxford! I visited the museum last year and the group I was with just walked past the prefab. But I was glued to the windows and wished I could get inside...

  3. Yes I spotted Sam's lovely prefab, I too would love to live in one but like you would never get all my stuff in there!! Thanks for sharing the lovely photos of the inside x

  4. What a great post! I'd love to see what these were like back in the day.

    By the way I nominated you for a Liebster Award. Be sure to check out my blog.

  5. What an interesting post. I adore the photos. It's a shame we don't continue to provide our soldiers returning home with this type of help.