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Birmingham’s Prefabs

The Wake Green Road Prefabs in the Birmingham suburb of Moseley have secured a spot in Historic England’s Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places.

Birmingham was devastated by bombing during the Second World War (World War II, WW2), having been targeted for its manufacturing of planes, vehicles and arms. It was the second most heavily bombed city in the UK, with more than 12,000 homes destroyed. Over 4,000 temporary homes, or prefabs, were erected at sites across the city as part of the Temporary Housing (Emergency Factory Made Homes) programme. 

The detached prefab homes in Moseley were built from cream corrugated sheeting, with a corrugated pitched roof. They had two bedrooms, fitted kitchens and bathrooms which were a novelty at the time, and they also had gardens to grow flowers and vegetables. Although only supposed to last for ten years, many are still standing 70 years later. Lived in, and loved by their inhabitants, and standing as a symbol of post-war recovery, innovation and optimism for a brighter future. 

In 2017, Historic England provided a £4,000 grant for the Wake Green Road Prefabs, which will fund work to answer questions on: 

  • What is the current condition of the properties?
  • How to best conserve and restore them?
  • How to best share the history of these dwellings?
  • What are the best uses for the buildings now?

The work involved is being carried out by Birmingham Conservation Trust, in partnership with the Twentieth Century Society and the Prefab Museum.

Garden and washing line outside a prehab home
Rear garden of prefab home in Wake Green Road © The Prefab Museum

The largest collection of prefabs remaining

100,000 prefabs were built after 1945 – with 4,000 of those being in Birmingham. Only several hundred still remain and 16 of the row of 17 cottage style bungalows at the southern end of Wake Green Road were listed at Grade II in 1998. The dwellings on Wake Green Road are the largest collection of listed prefabs in the country.

A 'temporary' solution to the 1944 housing crisis

The 1944 Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act sought to solve post-war housing problems. Factories that had been involved in wartime production churned out prefabs. Mass builders Lain, McAlpine and Henry Boot constructed these Phoenix-model prefabs in 1945. All around the United Kingdom, these 'temporary' dwellings far outlived their ten-year life expectancy.

Grant-aided places to visit

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