World War II created a new housing problem because many homes
were bombed. There was also another population boom in the
1940’s and another two million houses were needed by
the end of the decade.
Some people were housed in what were known as ’prefab’
houses, short for prefabricated, which means they were built
in sections in a factory and put together on site. This took
as little as three hours! These houses were made from metal
and wood. Some were even built using old aircraft wings.
The homes were very popular as they had running water, inside
bathrooms and electric cookers. They also had large gardens
to grow vegetables as rationing went on well into the 1950’s.
Despite being built to last only ten years there are still
people living in some of them today in Bristol, Newport and
Three quarters of a million traditional brick homes were built
by councils between 1945 and 1953. To make way for these homes
the demolition of bomb damaged homes and slums continued.
In some cases though good homes were knocked down to make
way for big estates, not because they were inadequate accommodation.
Concern about the number of houses being knocked down led
to the introduction, in 1947, of listing buildings. This is
a system to protect important buildings that have interesting
architecture or history. For example, most buildings built
before 1840 are listed. It is illegal to demolish a listed
building or to change it so most people that buy them restore
During the 1950’s high rise flats became more common
as land became even scarcer. The first lifts appeared too.
The trend for high-rise living continued in the 1960’s
and the big tower blocks that were built became known as ‘streets
in the sky’. Their popularity dropped dramatically though
in 1968 when part of a block, Ronan Point, collapsed. However
many do still exist and can be seen all over London.
Housing today is very varied. If you look around London you
will see old and new, big and small, high rise and low rise
houses. One interesting type of home that has been built recently
is Murray Grove in Shoreditch. What makes it special is that
it was prefabricated, but unlike the prefab homes built after
the war Murray grove is built to last. It has been built by
the Peabody Trust, who built homes for the poor in Victorian
times. These homes are quick and cheap to build on a large
scale and are of high quality. They could well be the homes
of the future.
here for activity sheet