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Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2014

The Arcon Prefab

The comfortable living room of our prefab

At the end of the Second World War, servicemen returned to a severe housing shortage. The Government's short term solution was the construction of pre-fabricated homes (prefabs). Thousands were erected nationwide between 1946-1947, with pipework and electrical wiring already built in. These prefabs proved to be incredibly popular. For many families, they were the first home they had with bathrooms and ‘modern’ kitchens and even central heating. Others had lost their homes to the wartime bombing raids and needed somewhere to live - the prefab was an excellent solution!

The outside and garden of our prefab

Our prefab is an Arcon Mk5 dating from about 1947. It was the first building acquired by the museum, in 1977, from Tilhill Foresty, where Henry had worked previously. To Madge and Henry it was 'the museum' – it had no 'innards' at that time but held their shop and museum items. Later, it was fitted with a domestic interior with the rooms separated from visitors using Perspex partitions. Around 2002 it was fitted out with genuine walls and ceilings, with all the parts obtained from five of the hundreds of similar buildings in Bristol that were being demolished by the local authority.

Please come and explore inside our Prefab. It is the sort of home that is a lot more comfortable inside than the rather industrial outer appearance indicates. For obvious reasons, all Arcon prefabs look very similar, but who would complain at that!

The bedroom of our prefab

Inside the Arcon, the layout was almost totally dictated by the style of construction, leaving little room for individuality. It was possible to provide a second bedroom (for the children) or a dining room, but not both. There was no space for an indoor air-raid shelter such as the Morrison shelter (which doubled as a table), so often an outdoor shelter was constructed, such as our Stanton concrete shelter behind the prefab. After the war, many of these continued life as a tool-shed.

The kitchen of our prefab

Even the kitchen of the prefab was pleasant and modern. Some new occupants would have been accustomed to cooking over an open fire; they now had a modern cooker and handy storage for goods and implements. The refrigerator was a very modern item, far better than the older scullery - and easily positioned, too! There was no need for a meat-safe when a refrigerator was used - it kept food in good condition for much longer and must have been a very useful item.