A museum celebrating the humble prefab house is battling for survival in South East London.
They were only supposed to last a decade or so while Britain recovered from the ravages of six years of warfare. But many of the prefabricated homes built to house key workers and returning servicemen and their families after World War II endured for the rest of the century.
Part of the Temporary Housing Programme, more than 150,000 prefabricated buildings were erected all over the UK between 1946-8. In a few hundred cases these simple two-bedroomed ‘prefab’ bungalows can still be seen today, standing as a symbol of post-war Britain and its slow recovery from austerity and rationing.
Now the humble prefab is being celebrated in London as a group of artists and locals fight to save one of the last remaining examples, on a housing estate in Catford, with the help of a new Kickstarter campaign.
The Prefab Museum is the vision of photojournalist and curator Elisabeth Blanchet and Jane Hearn, a community development professional who has worked with residents of the local Excalibur and Downham estates for more than 20 years.
With 186 prefab bungalows still standing at the beginning of 2014, the Excalibur Estate is the largest remaining estate of post war prefabs in the UK. Demolition began in July 2014, and the estate is due to be cleared by 2019.
The museum was originally opened in March 2014 as a pop-up museum offering a blend of temporary art exhibitions and social histories. Its organisers say interest has been so great that they want to keep it open and continue sharing the history of the prefab for future generations.
‘It’s been such a success over the past few months and now we’re coming to a crossroads where we need to support it,’ says Hearn.
‘We’ve had great support and feedback from the public; they want to come back and bring their friends and their relatives.
‘Now we need a bit of money to keep going. If we’re going to continue we need support.’
The fundraising campaign is looking to raise £15,000 to enable the museum to stay open and free over the next few months as they put together funding applications and continue talks with the local council and other funding bodies.
The long-term aim is to preserve it as a place where residents and visitors can be part of a living archive of life on the local estates via a collection of oral histories, photographs, artworks and films recalling the post war period.
- The Prefab Museum is taking part in Open House London 2014 on September 20-21.
Find out more at www.prefabmuseum.uk and make a donation HERE
Culture 24 article